By JOHN TAINTOR FOOTE
DAUGHTER OF DELILAH
CHANGE OF IDOLS
A WEDDING GIFT
THE SONG OF THE DRAGON
THE LOOK OF EAGLES
DUMB-BELL OF BROOKFIELD
THE LUCKY SEVEN
John Taintor Foote
Illustrated by Arthur D. Fuller
D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY
NEW YORK 1937 LONDON
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA Y . . . . I
DOG UPON THE WATERS 21
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF . . . . . 39
MY FIRST DEPRESSION . . 59
OLD JOE 77
THE FALL OF MR. BARNTSTOPLE .... '99
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 121
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE . . . . 143
HERE SHE CAME CRAWLING ALONG BEHIND ME . . 2
I CARRIED HER TO SHORE 22
I BECAME AWARE THAT MY GALLERY HAD NOT DE-
SERTED ME 40
THE BLUE PYLE'S LEGS BEGAN TO MOVE IN A SORT OF
PAWING MOTION 60
POOK DEVOTED A MOMENT TO SCRATCHING HIS KINKY
GRAY DOME 78
"STAND BACK, CAP, AN* GIMME ROOM!" . . . . 100
THE POINTERS BEGAN TO SOAR BACK AND FORTH
ACROSS THE FIELD 122
I WATCHED THE DIVER SPIN, TWIRL, AND STAGGER
The Blighting of Jeptha
HERE SHE CAMDB CRAWLING ALONG BEHIND ME.
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA
A MAN'S first love may easily have been a redhead,
with a copious sprinkling of magenta freckles. She
may have been a sprightly lady with match-stick un-
derpinning and a generous endowment of buck-teeth.
In the matter of the female form divine, it is certain
that she ran chiefly to arms and legs or vaguely sug-
gested a Christmas plum pudding. Even so, who can
recall her cherished lineaments, the shrill cadence of
her voice, the angular or rotund contours of her per-
son, without a wistful sigh, a warmth at the heart,
a sudden quickening of the pulse?
A similar nostalgic yearning comes to most of us
at the thought of our first shotgun. It was, in all
probability, a single-barreled weapon, chambered and
bored, after a fashion, for 2O-gauge shells, with a
kick that left a still-scrawny biceps richly black and
blue* The assemblage of this haphazard specimen of
the gun maker's art was of such a dubious nature
that to "break 11 it required what looked like a strain-
4 SPORTING DAYS
ing attempt at hari-kari or it flipped open with sus-
Be that as it may, who can dream of that once-
venerated symbol of the chase and the god4ike
power it placed in one's hands over the life-span of
unsuspecting red squirrels, chipmunks and even the
too-slothful rabbit, without a softening of the inner
man quite as devastating as the recollection of a dar-
ing peck in the cloakroom?
The answer to both these questions is to be found
in the person of one Jep Sparling, a fairly reliable
plumber when, as he says, the notion takes him, but
an indispensable companion if one wishes to know
what coverts of Westchester County, New York,
the evasive timberdoodle, mate and offspring, will
favor, as rest-rooms, in their uncertain journey
I am prepared to swear that thoughts of his first
girl and his first gun leave Jep completely cold* I
am forced to this conclusion because of a recital of
certain facts, pertaining to the past, which he re-
cently divulged. With a pair of setters reproachfully
intent on each morsel of lunch that passed our lips,
he spoke as follows:
"Will I ever forget my first shotgun? Brother,
I never will, I'll remember that cornshucker as long
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA
;ot strength to twitch a trigger finger. I came
ss this outrage by reason of collecting nine
two hundred and seventy-five thousand and
odd soap coupons and delivering enough milk
at half a cent a quart to amass and forward, together
with said coupons, the dizzy sum of six bucks to a
bunch of racketeers, then in the mail-order business,
at Kansas City, Missouri.
"In due time back she came, and for a couple of
months I slept with hen No kidding, I used to take
that gun to bed with me so nobody could steal her
in the night without killing me first She was a 16-
gauge single-barrel, weighing right at 8 pounds, that
handled like a post-hole digger. I was twelve, going
on thirteen, at the time, with nothing to bother me
except my old man, who could lay a razor strop, that
heM made out of a heavy harness trace, spang on the
seat of my pants with a dexterousness that would of
surprised you. I don't recollect ever seeing his equal
"Not that the old man was too numerous with
that strop, I could get by with the average amount
of orneryness, including corn-silk cigarettes, with
just warnings ; but there was two things I had to do.
One was milk our cow, and the other was to be at
the schoolhouse before the 4 morning bell stopped
6 SPORTING DAYS
ringing. That cow got milked and I got educated -
"At that time I was sappy as a spring maple over
a female child of the name of Luella Tansy that
lived up our street and around the corner till you
came to the first house past the blacksmith shop.
Our pasture lot ended at Luella's back yard. I'd
hang on the pasture fence, summer evenings, and
make a noise like a hoot-owl, which was the signal
for her to come out and scream and dodge at low-
flying bats while I explained what a great guy I was.
"After the gun came I put in an evening telling
her how I was practically going to exterminate the
partridges and rabbits from our section of the state
when fall came around. I promised to take her with
me on a few big hunts. I said I'd let her carry the
game. She dodged at a bat that was twenty feet
above her head and said, 'Oh, thank you, JeppyP
and that was that.
"The fall got there after a while, but so did
school. It put a terrible crimp in my plans to mas-
sacre the game for miles around. It was against the
law to shoot on a Sunday, and for four straight
Saturdays it rained. Right after that I came down
with the mumps, and that saved our fur and feathers
from destruction for another three weeks while I
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA ^
stayed in bed and ate what I could chew which was
"They sent me back to school on a Monday.
Late Tuesday evening old man Carr, that owned a
farm about nine miles out, brought a load of fodder
in for our cow and told me there was a wild goose
on Amber Lake and why didn't I go out there with
my new gun and see if I could get a shot at it.
"If he'd told me a grizzly was loose in the woods,
it wouldn't have given me a bigger jolt. Geese didn't
stop in our section they just stream-lined it on
through, 'way up yonder; but I'd laid in bed and
heard 'em go over, and just the sound of 'em would
make my heart thud like a pile-driven I'd jump up
and tear for the window and flatten my nose against
the window-pane, trying to get a sight of them
buglers; and do you know, I'll do the same right
"Well, something had to be done about this sky-
cruiser out on Amber Lake that was certain. I
couldn't count on a wild goose being enough inter-
ested in my schooling to wait till Saturday; so I
figured the crisis called for a relapse from scholar-
ship- In short, I aimed to play hooky next day.
"I went into the house and got my gun and some
shells, and sneaked 'em out and hid J em in the
8 SPORTING DAYS
fodder. I didn't sleep much that night. When I
wasn't seeing myself drawing a bead on that honker,
I was thinking about just how the razor strop felt
after the old man got the range and windage doped
out and began to find center with every shot.
"Next morning I started off in my school suit with
my books under my arm, as nice as you please, but
I circled back and put the books in the cow manger
and hauled my gun and shells out of the fodder and
beat it across the pasture, heading for the road to
"Well, who should be out in her back yard, with
an armful of stove-wood from the wood pile, but
Luella. She asked me what I was doing with my gun,
and I told her I was going hunting. She said I didn't
have time because the first bell had rung already. I
threw a chest and said I had more important things
to think of than school bells. Then I gave her the
big news. I told her I was going out to Amber Lake
and shoot a wild goose.
"Before I could stop her she dropped the stove-
wood and over the fence she came. She said, C A wild
goose! Mercy goodness 1 Lemme go with you,
Jeppy aw, please I'
"Did I let her go with me? That was forty years
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 9
ago and, brother, I still get sort of low and feverish
when I remember that I did.
"It was better than six miles to Amber Lake, and
we hoofed it all the way. We followed the branch-
line railroad for about three miles. I skipped a tie at
every stride to show I was a man. It took some
stretching, and pretty soon my leg muscles began to
ache, but I kept right at it. Luella patted along, hit-
ting a tie to each step, or else walking a rail with her
hand on my shoulder.
"The toughest part of the trip was the trestle
over Red Horse Rift. It was safe as a church, but
if you looked down between the ties you could see
the river running fifty feet below, and Luella began
letting out squeaks and saying it made her dizzy.
"I'd got her half-way across by holding her arm
and taking it slow when she squeaked and stopped
dead and said what if a train should come along. I
told her this was just a branch with only one train
a day that came by around noon. She said how did I
know, and I told her everybody knew it and that I
had walked the trestle thousands of times and to
quit being a scairt-cat or I'd leave her where she
was. That brought her along, all right, but she kept
watching up the track like she expected a train to
sneak around the bend on her any minute and she
10 SPORTING DAYS
kept saying she wished she hadn't come. I said I
wished it a darn sight worse than she did, and she
said I wouldn't feel so smart if God sent a special
train down that track on account of us playing
"I didn't hardly expect to find any wild goose on
"he lake by the time we got there, which was close
to eleven o'clock, but there he was, right in the mid-
dle, with his long black neck poked up like a stick
Df licorice. Did I get a kick out of seeing him setting
sut there? Brother, I did! I watched him through
some blueberry bushes for fifteen or twenty minutes,
just looking at him. Then I began to study what to
"Now that I saw him I was crazy-afraid he'd get
jp and be on his way any minute. I didn't know
enough to figure he was probably gut-shot, or he
shouldn't of been there in the first place. I thought
le'd just took a notion to set out there all by his-
self, and I thought up a kind of prayer. I said, *Oh,
Sod, please keep him settin' till I get a boat.'
"The boat I had in mind was an old flat-bottom
:hing that I knew about from fishing for bullheads,
[t was down at the end of the lake, last time I was
:here, and we went around to that end, and there she
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA II
was, in all her glory, about to sink from an overdose
"I tried to pull her up on shore, but all I needed
for that was a couple of good willing mules that
would lay right down to it; so I waded in and tilted
some of the water out of her and went to bailing
with a worm can I found under a seat. It was a
small-size baking-powder can holding maybe half a
pint. By the time I'd got the water out of her I
don't think I could have raised my gun up to shoot
if the goose had swum down to watch me work.
"I rested a spell and thought things over. I'd
heard enough about wild geese to know I couldn't
row out to this one and blaze away. It looked like
the only thing to do was to get up-wind of him and
lay down in the boat and see if I could drift close
enough to get a shot. Not so dumb for a 12-year-
old if you ask me. I don't know but what I'd
handle the proposition the same way right today.
"The trouble was, the boat was at the down-wind
end of the lake and I had to get it up pretty near
to the other end. I told Luella what I aimed to do
and she said, C A boat ride ! Goody !' and hopped in.
"Have you ever rowed a flat-bottom horse-trough
without any keel three miles against the wind, trying
to hug the shore and miss snags and keep your eye
2 SPORTING DAYS
m a goose all at the same time ? I ain't never done
t since, and it's going to be a long time yet before
do. I remember Luella kept asking me why we
lidn't go faster. I don't know but what I hold that
igainst her as much as anything that happened.
"When both hands was solid blisters most of
em broke and my back-bone felt like it would
plinter if I moved quick, I'd got about five hun-
Ired yards past the goose. He hadn't stirred a web
hat I could see just sat there with his neck up,
waiting for my next move.
"I rowed out till I was dead up-wind of him, and
mlled in the oars and told Luella to lay down flat.
>he wouldn't. She said if she laid down in her school
Iress in that dirty, wet boat her mother would kill
ter. I had to push her down and step on her, I re-
nember, before I could get her to do it. Then I
rawled forward to the bow and laid down myself.
"There was a crack where the top of the side-
wards had pulled away from the bow piece, and I
.ept my head down and watched the goose through
hat. As we drifted down to him he strained his
leek to get his head up another inch, but he never
rioved. I expect we got about sixty yards from him.
was beginning to kind of dent in the gun stock and
>arrel with my fingers when Luella spoke up. She
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 13
said it was 'way past dinner time and she was awful
"Well, the goose went away from there. Them
big wings of his began smacking the water till he
got a couple of feet above it. Then he flapped down
to the other end of the lake and pitched. I told
Luella she could sit up now. That's all I told her.
It wasn't any place to really tell her, because if I had
started to get her told right I'd of throwed her
"What helped save Luella was me being so busy
watching where the goose lit, which was in the nar-
row end of the lake about thirty yards off from a
patch of reeds. That was the key to the situation
them reeds. All I had to do now was to go
around the lake to where they were and crawl across
a open space to 'em and let him have it. It seemed
like a two-mile walk would be a pleasure after row-
ing that boat; but when I'd got at it, I knew I'd
"done things I liked better.
"That side of the lake was mostly hemlock
swamp. By the time you've gone a ways, stumbling
over sunk logs and stepping into bog holes, you
begin to get sort of discouraged. It liked to killed
Luella. I tried to make her sit down on a stump and
wait for me, but she said she wouldn't stay alone
14 SPORTING DAYS
in the swamp for two million dollars on account
of there was bound to be snakes in a place like that.
Luella was afraid of a lot of things, but snakes was
her special dread and horror.
"By the time we got to the edge of the hemlock,
just in from the open space behind the reeds, she
was whimpering like a sick puppy* I told her to stay
where she was while I got down and crawled to the
reeds, but the snake idea still had her. She said
she'd rather crawl a mile than have a snake drop
down from a tree and crush her to a pulp or sink
his fangs in her and kill her dead with poison.
"I said all right she could crawl out there with
me, but I said if she let out so much as one whisper
I'd push her down out of sight in the swamp and
throw stones on top of the body. She said I wouldn't
dare do such a thing on account of they'd hang me
for it, and I told her I wouldn't care if they did if
she scairt that goose again. When I got down and
started crawling for the reeds, here she came crawl-
ing along behind me, being mighty careful to cut
out the whimper I'd been hearing for the last hour.
"Well, the bare spot turned out to be bog, mostly.
By the time we got to the reeds Luella needn't have
worried about what laying down in the boat had
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA IIJJ
done to her dress, and the only thing I could of used
my school suit for was cleaning out the cowshed.
"We got to the reeds all right and worked
through them nice and careful. The wind was mak-
ing 'em rattle, and that helped a lot. I crawled till
I saw the shimmer of the lake through the reeds. I
raised up slow and easy, and there he was I
"Brother, that was sumpin 1 I could see the white
band under his throat and the black on his head and
neck and the gray feathers on his back and wings.
I could even see one of his little round eyes he
was that close. He looked like my meat, but my
heart started to try to jump right out of me and I
began to shake till my teeth rattled.
"I waited a minute to steady down before I poked
my gun ahead of me through the reeds. I got on my
knees by easy stages and cocked the gun. It sounded
like somebody had dropped a sledge on a anvil, and
I missed two full breaths and five or six heart-beats
till I saw the goose hadn't moved. I was drawing
down on him when Luella turned loose a scream that
raised my hat right up off my head and stood every
hair straight out from the back of my neck. I found
out afterwards that what we called a mussrat in
them days had drug hisself across one of her legs.
"I doubt if a Iroquois with a scalp-knife, in times
1 6 SPORTING DAYS
past, ever brought a shriek that would of matched
Luella's out of any female's chest. Every muscle I
had jerked tight, including the one in my trigger
finger. The gun went off and kicked me over back-
wards on top of Luella.
"When I got up, Mr. Honker was down the lake
a couple of hundred yards, eight feet up in the air
and getting higher. He kept on working for altitude
till he could clear the trees at the other end of the
lake, and over them he went and on out of sight.
He must have been a sick goose, but I guess Luella's
scream and that gunshot right in his ear had scairt
him so bad he plumb forgot it.
"You'd of thought that would of been all from
Luella for that day, but it wasn't. I'd got her to the
branch-line trestle on the way home, with her cry-
ing most of the way about her dress being ruined
and missing her dinner and how tired she was and
what-not. When we were pretty well out on the
trestle, a train whistled on the main line over the
other side of the hill, and Luella let out another
screech. It didn't hold a candle to her mussrat effort,
but she throwed her arms around me at the same
time and knocked the gun out of my hand. I tried
to make a grab for it, but I couldn't get Luella un-
wound from me in time, and I saw the gun bounce
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 117
i one of the rails and slide between the ties and
id over end down into Red Horse Rift.
t was beginning to get dark, and I was too beat
think about making any more moves that day;
[ proved right there I was a well-meaning boy,
ys trying- to do the right thing. Instead of push-
Luella after the gun, I just gave her one little
in the pants and took her by the neck and
:hed her the rest of the way across the trestle.
iVhen I got home, Mother took a look at my
01 suit and came close to tying Luella's all-time
-and-screech record. Then she said, 'Oh, Jeptha,
* Perkins was over about you not being at school
The old man didn't say much. He just got a
of a far-away look in his eye and said, 'I milked
Jerse myself.' Then he crooked a finger at me
led the way to the preserve and pickle room,
h was always the scene of major operations. I
, of think what followed was another all-time
rd. I know the old man never equaled it again
;lf that I can recall.
[ went out to Red Horse Rift again next day,
t after school, and took off my clothes and
ed out and felt around with my feet till I stubbed
1 8 SPORTING DAYS
my toe against the gun. Then I ducked under and
got hold of her and brought her to shore.
"After I'd got dressed and had quit shivering
enough to put in a shell, I started to hunt some on
the way home. I was after rabbits especial. I didn't
come across any, but I did see a screech-owl setting
in a walnut tree back of the cowshed right in our
pasture. I drawed a bead on him and touched her off.
4 'Well, I don't know what happened to the
screech-owl, but I've got a kind of general idea what
happened to me. I got this nick in my ear and this
here dent-like on my left hand and a furrow in my
scalp that you could still see the scar of if it wasn't
for the hair.
"The gun must have lit muzzle down when she
fell from the trestle, and a lot of Red Horse Rift
was clay bottom that would plug up a gun barrel as
tight as a cork. At any rate, when I came to, I was
setting on the ground with quite a lot of gun left.
That is to say, I still had the stock and half the
"A couple of days after that Luella appears out-
side my window. I couldn't see her good on account
of bandages, but I could hear her all right. She said,
'Yoo hoo, Jeppy! Mother says I can't go with you
THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 1 9
"I was still pretty shaky, but I wasn't so weak
but what I could get up out of bed and get to the
window, which I did.
"I said, 'Listen, Luella. You go on home and tell
your mother that her and I have the same ideas
"Well, let's go and kill us a couple of woodcock.
I'll give these two sandwiches to the dogs. You,
Fan! Stay away from that I Look, will you! The
big mallet-head has went and let her take his sand-
wich from him. Don't it beat hell what a poor dumb
he will stand for from a she 1"
Dog Upon the Waters
I CARRIED HER TO SHORE.
DOG UPON THE WATERS
MYRTLE is dead. Poor funny, little snipe-nosed
Myrtle. I left her, bored to extinction, at a gun club
in Maryland. Between shooting seasons, life to her
was a void. It consisted of yawns, the languid pur-
suit of an occasional flea, the indifferent toying with
bones and dog biscuits and a mournful, lackluster
gazing at fields and thickets near by.
During these dreary months she was never chained
or confined in any way. Self hunting, which spoils
so many gun dogs, did not affect Myrtle. Occasion-
ally, when the dragging days became more than she
could bear, she would betake herself listlessly to
quail cover, find a covey, point it for a moment, flush
it and watch the birds whir off into the pines. She
would then return, sighing heavily, to a twitching
nap somewhere around the clubhouse.
She must have perished during one of these efforts
to break the monotony, of existence in a gunless
world, because a letter from the club steward tells
24 SPORTING DAYS
me that she was caught in a muskrat trap in the big
marsh and drowned. The big marsh is perhaps a half
mile from the clubhouse.
Drowned! Except for Chesapeakes and a spaniel
or two, I never saw a better swimmer. And yet, in
preventing a similar tragedy, she became my dog,
body and soul. Also I learned to sniff audibly when
scientific fellows announce in my presence that ani-
mals cannot reason.
And now, I fear me, I shall have to divulge a
secret that has been closely kept for many a day. I
am about to spread reluctantly on the printed page
the one formula for securing the kind of quail dog
that fills an owner with unspeakable joy from dawn
to dark, year in, year out, come heat or cold, or
drought or rain.
It has nothing to do with sending a check to a
professional breeder and then waiting, all expectant,
for a shipping crate to be delivered at one's door. It
has nothing to do with raising endless litters of dis-
temper-ridden puppies. If you want the rarest, the
most perfect instrument for sport in all the world,
and not the average plodder and flusher of commerce
or home industry, stick to my formula. I set it down
exactly as it was given to me by a wise man of the
South many years ago.
DOG UPON THE WATERS 25
Here it is: "A Georgia cracker will sell any-
thing his land, his mule, his house, his wife. By
God, he'll sell a bird dog a real one, I mean. Just
show him cash money and he'll reach for it.'*
These words after I had learned their true sig-
nificance accounted, some years ago, for my spend-
ing a winter in Atlanta. My string of gun dogs, so
my handler told me, had petered out. I was looking
for another string, and Atlanta is the clearing house
for information about noteworthy setters and point-
ers located in the various counties of south and
central Georgia where the most quail and, ipso
facto, the most good gun dogs are found. Working
out from Atlanta by motorcar, as rumors of dogs
that knew their business drifted into town, I had se-
cured four pointers. I had shot over perhaps fifty
dogs in selecting them. The four were all fast, wide-
going, covey finders. Class dogs are good for about
three hours at top speed. I, therefore, had a pair for
mornings and a pair for afternoons, but I needed
something that would stay in closer and go slower
and find singles an all-day dog to back up my
One evening a voice spoke over the telephone a
voice that I knew well. The voice said: 4 'Listen. The
foreman of our bottling plant was down below
26 SPORTING DAYS
Macon last week. He got plenty birds. He's been
telling me about a little setter bitch he saw work that
sounds like what you're after. He says he can fix it
for us to go down and shoot over her next Saturday.
"How far is it?"
" 'Bout a hundred and twenty miles."
"Does your foreman know a good dog when he
"What does he say she's like?"
"He says she's a ball of fire."
"Finding singles coveys too."
"All right, have him fix it."
Thanks to that telephone conversation, my glance
rested upon Myrtle for the first time about eight
o'clock the following Saturday morning. She came
cat-footing from somewhere behind a paintless shack,
set in three or four acres of cotton stalks, at her
I took one look at her. Then my eyes swung re-
proachfully to the bottling-plant foreman who was
responsible for, and had accompanied us on, a one-
hundred-and-twenty-mile drive to see hen
DOG UPON THE WATERS 27
"Never you mind," said he stoutly. "You want a
bird dog, don't you?"
I did want a bird dog. I have ever been contemp-
tuous of him who goes gunning with a silky-coated,
bench-show type of setter calculated to drive a
sportsman to undreamed-of heights of profanity with
one hour's work in the field. But this specimen be-
fore me was well, I felt that I could never bring
myself to admitting the ownership of such a dog.
I had been told she was little. She was. She did
not weigh much more than twenty pounds. She had
a wavy black-white-and-ticked coat that gave her a
claim on the setter family. Her muzzle was so
pointed that her head suggested the head of a fox
a black fox except for a pair of drooping bird-dog
ears. Her tail was short, clubby and without any
flag. She carried it drooping and a bit to one side.
Her eyes were the yellow fox eyes that belonged in
such a head. Her gait, as she had come loping to us,
seemed more cat than fox, but it reminded me of
Delicacy made me omit the opening of the ritual
expected at such a time. "How's she bred?" was
never spoken. I inquired without interest about her
28 SPORTING DAYS
"Comin 5 three. Reck'n me an' you better stay to-
gether, an' yoh friends hunt their dogs."
"All right," I agreed feebly. I was in for it! A-
hunting we must go 1
And a-hunting we did go. My friend and the bot-
tling-plant man with two of the former's dogs in one
direction ; my hapless self, with the unspeakable little
setter and her lanky owner, in another. She had been
named Myrtle, he told me, after his old woman. I
had caught a glimpse of the "old woman" through
the door of the shack ere we set forth. She was all
We walked in silence up a lane, and so came to
fields and promising cover. "Get along, Myrt," said
my companion, in a conversational tone, and Myrt
drifted to our left into some high grass and dis*
appeared. We found her presently, perfectly still,
looking without particular interest straight before
her. "She's got birds," I heard. And this, indeed, was
true, if our finding a covey twenty yards ahead of
her proved it. Accustomed to the tense rigidity on
point of more orthodox shooting dogs, Myrt's
method was disconcerting.
I shall not attempt to describe that day my first
day afield with Myrtle. She found, in her cat-fox
fashion, twelve coveys, as I remember. After each
DOG UPON THE WATERS 29
covey find, she proceeded to point and promptly re-
trieve, when killed, every scattered bird of every
covey or so it seemed to me. And the day was hot,
and the day was dry. Incidentally her master shot
rings around me.
Her final exhibition that evening would have set-
tled my desire to call her mine if she had not already
won me completely hours before. We had joined' my
friend and the bottling-plant foreman. They had
found two coveys and a few singles, had killed four
birds, and my friend's pair of pointers were the
apple of his eye.
"There just weren't birds in the country we
worked over," my friend explained.
I saw the owner of Myrtle open his mouth to
speak, then close it resolutely. We started down the
lane to the house, my friend, with his dogs at heel,
in the lead; Myrtle, cat-footing behind her master,
in the rear.
The dusk had closed in softly about us. It was al-
ready too dark for decent shooting. The lane down
which we plodded had a high wire fence on either
side, with pine woods to the left and a flat, close-
cropped field to the right.
Suddenly I heard a whine behind me. I stopped
and turned. Myrtle was trying to squeeze through
30 SPORTING DAYS
the right-hand wire fence to get into the field be-
"Birds out yonder," said Myrtle's owner.
I called to my friend and explained.
Now his dogs had just passed that way without a
sign. Also, the field was almost as bare of cover as a
"Out there I" he snorted. "Wait till we get back
to Atlanta. Maybe we'll find a covey in the middle
of Five Points."
Perhaps I should say here that Five Points is to
Atlanta what Trafalgar Square is to London.
Myrtle's owner met the insult by picking her up
and dropping her over the fence. She went straight
out into the field and stopped.
There followed an exhibition of fence climbing
against the watch by my friend and the bottling-plant
foreman. They managed to scratch down two birds
from the covey that roared up in the gloom some-
where out ahead of Myrtle.
Thirty minutes later she was stretched out on the
back seat of the car on her way to Atlanta, too tired
to wonder where she was going or with whom.
She cost me steady, gentlemen, don't throw any-
hing; just observe the workings of the formula
forty dollars. The amount was simply spread care-
DOG UPON THE WATERS 31
lessly before her owner. The result was inevitable.
And so I became the owner of Myrtle. But that
was all. I made a point of feeding her myself. I
brought her into the house and begged her to accept
my favorite overstuffed chair. I petted her fondly.
She accepted food and chair without enthusiasm. She
barely submitted to the caresses. She was not inter-
ested in a mere owner. She wanted a master. She
wanted the lanky cracker that was clear. As to the
matter of forty dollars changing hands, she com-
pletely ignored the transaction.
Having endured a few days of this, I accepted an
invitation to go down with one of the best quail shots
in the South to shoot with friends of his near Ameri-
cus. I wanted birds smacked right and left over
Myrtle. I wanted her to see shooting that was shoot-
ing, with tne lanky cracker far, far away. This, I felt,
might aid her perception of property rights. I loaded
her into the car then, among a reassuring welter of
gun cases, shell boxes and shooting coats, and, lest
she be distracted while learning that forty dollars
is forty dollars, I left the four whirlwinds straining
at their chains, yelping prayers and curses after me,
as we drove off.
Eventually we reached a plantation house and its
broad acres, over which we were to shoot, to be
32 SPORTING DAYS
greeted by two tall brothers who owned it alL A
mincing, high-tailed pointer, who seemed to be walk-
ing on eggs, and a deep-muzzled, well-feathered
setter helped to welcome us. They were a fine-looking
pair of dogs. I opened the rear door of the car and
Myrtle came forth.
Now our hosts were true gentlemen of the South.
After a look at Myrtle, they spoke earnestly of the
weather and the crops and of how hard it was to get
hold of good corn liquor. The crack shot from At-
lanta became absorbed in assembling his gun. All in
all, the moment passed off well.
In due time we marched out over the fields, four
guns in line. We had planned to separate into pairs
when we reached wider country. This we never did.
I do not like to shoot with more than one other gun.
I wanted the crack shot to help me kill birds in-
stantly and stone dead when Myrtle found them;
but, in a surprisingly short time, the brothers showed
little desire to leave us, despite their pair of dogs
ranging splendidly through the cover.
Myrtle, as we started, had run whining from one
man to another for some moments. At last she
stopped to stand and watch the other dogs quarter-
ing out ahead. She turned and looked deliberately at,
or rather through, each of the gunners, myself in-
DOG UPON THE WATERS %$
eluded. Then with a last small whimper, she got to
work. It became clearer and clearer from then on
that the place to kill birds that day was in the vicinity
That miniature, misbegotten what-not found covey
after covey and heaven knows how many singles,
Her work was marred, however. When a bird fell,
she would find it at once and pick it up. She would
stand uncertain for a moment and whimper, then
start with the bird in her mouth for the nearest man.
Having visited all four of us, she would begin to
move in a vague circle, whining and looking about.
Once she dashed for a high black stump in a field,
to return dejectedly with the bird still in her mouth.
I blew my whistle at such times. She never seemed
to hear it. I would go toward her, calling her name,
and ordering her to "Bring it here!" She only re-
treated from me, whimpering as I advanced. Get-
ting to her at last, I would take hold of the bird and
persuade her to let go of it. All this took time. It
was also, to me, her legal owner, somewhat morti-
I shared my lunch with Myrtle. She accepted a
sandwich, then withdrew a little from the rest of us,
to stand looking off into the distance. Suddenly she
was away like a shot. I looked in the direction she
34 SPORTING DAYS
was going and saw a Negro field hand working along
the bottoms, gun in hand, looking for rabbits. I blew
and blew my whistle. She rushed on. When close to
the Negro, she stopped, looked at him, and came
slowly back to where we sat. I rubbed her behind the
ears and along the back. She submitted, gazing off
Later that afternoon a covey scattered in a narrow
thicket along the bank of the river. The river was
in flood a wide, tawny plain with hummocks of fast
water in the middle and still reaches of backwater at
Myrtle pointed a single within inches of the water.
The bird, when flushed, swung out over the riven
The deadly gun from Atlanta cracked. The bird came
down in the backwater just at the edge of the cur-
rent. Myrtle was'in the river swimming for the bird
the moment it fell. She got to it quickly, but an eddy
or the wind had carried it out into the current. As
she turned to come back with the bird in her mouth,
the force of the river took her, and downstream she
There was a bend just there, curving away from
our side. We four stood helpless on its outer rim and
watched her work slowly shoreward, going down-
stream ten feet for every foot she gained toward
DOG UPON THE WATERS 35
the backwater and safety. I remember yelling "Drop
it, Myrt drop it 1" knowing that she could make a
better fight without that wretched bird. She did not
obey. She struggled on until she came at last to the
backwater with the bird still in her mouth.
We all breathed sighs of relief and watched her
swim swiftly toward us when free from the drag of
the current. "Good girl ! Bring it here 1" I called, and
got out a cigarette with shaking fingers. I began to
bask in exclamations I heard along the bank: "Hot
damn! That's the baby I" And "Come on home with
the bacon, gal 1" At least I was her owner.
But trouble swiftly met that small swimmer.
There were cat briers growing below her in the
flooded ground. One of the longer of these through
which she swam fastened in her collar the new col-
lar I had bought her only the day before. Swim as
she might, it held her fast. Her stroke became less
smooth. She began to paw the water with her front
feet splashing as she did so.
My shooting coat, filled with shells, came off and
in I went. No swimming, I found, was required. I
was no more than up to my armpits in icy water
when I reached Myrtle. For this I was duly thankful.
Myrtle was showing fright and exhaustion by now.
She was no longer swimming. She was dog-paddling
36 SPORTING DAYS
frantically to keep her head above water. The quail
was still in her mouth.
I disengaged the brier from her collar and carried
her to shore. Then I sat down to empty my hunting
boots. I thought I felt the rasp of a pink tongue on
the back of my hand as I did so. I can't be sure, for
I was pretty cold.
The day was well along and my bedraggled state
demanded the plantation house and a fire. We started
toward both, hunting as we went.
I was at the left end of the line. Myrtle stopped
on point, out in front and to the right. It was evi-
dently a single, since flushed birds had gone that
way. I called, "Go in and kill it!" And stood to
watch the shot.
The bird fell at the report of the gun. Myrtle
went into some brambles to retrieve. She emerged
with the bird in her mouth. "Bring it here !" I heard
from the man to whom it rightfully belonged. If
Myrtle heard him, she gave no sign. Nor did she
give that whimper of uncertainty that I had heard
throughout the day, as she had stood with a recov-
ered bird in her mouth. She came to me on a straight
line, running eagerly, to lay the dead quail in my ex-
tended palm. Her eyes had that look half pride in
work well done, half love and faith and companion-
DOG UPON THE WATERS 37
ship which is characteristic of a shooting dog as a
bird is brought to the master's hand. "Here it is,
boss!" that look seemed to say. "It's yours. And I
am yours to slave for you, to adore you, as long as
I shall live."
Although my teeth were chattering, I was warmed
suddenly from within.
Myrtle rode back to Atlanta that night, curled in
my lap, a weary but contented little dog.
The Diver Does His Stuff
I BECAME AWARE THAT MY GALLERY HAD NOT
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF
Now that concrete roads beribbon the country in all
directions and motorcars are filled with a smooth de-
termination to sneak up to seventy while you tell
your fishing pal the latest non-parlor story, the na-
tives, along even the more remote trouting waters,
regard a dry-fly angler, fully panoplied for the chase r
with a lack of interest that amounts to complete
apathy. In these later times the countryside has be-
come aware that the first spring blossoms will bring
a migration of such creatures to each wadable trout
stream in the wake of the state hatchery fish truck;
that, despite their appalling appearance, they are as
harmless as the shitepoke and the teeter snipe whose
haunts they invade, and that they will depart, as
mysteriously as they came, with the last of the mos-
i, ;es, leaving behind them only the raucous chuckle
ae more persistent kingfisher to rise above the
, le of the river.
aere was a day, however alas, it will never
42 SPORTING DAYS
come again when fish trucks were as unnecessary
as they were unknown. In that delightful era chil-
dren fled screaming into the schoolhouse, the cheeks
of country maidens blanched with dread, farmers
reached for the old double-barreled standing behind
the door at the sight of a strange figure, apparently
in the last stages of dropsy, shod in a pair of aver-
age-sized canal boats, making ponderously for the
Somewhat later, suspicion of a pair of animated
elephantine waders and what-not changed to amuse-
ment as the word went around that these were not
demented, deep-sea divers stalking inland, but only
honest citizens of somewhat larger communities "got
up for fishinV* Later still, particularly among the
younger males of the hinterland, derision gave place
to a certain amount of curiosity as to how anybody
rigged out like that conducted himself on a trout
It being well known that a pair of rubber boots,
a pole, a line, a hook and some night-crawlers were
all that were needed to secure an ample panful, why
did anyone get into such duds and go swinging an
elongated buggy-whip up and down-stream to catch
trout? Was it just a city notion or was there some-
thing in it? Maybe, with those funny-looking clothes
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 43
and shoes and gadgets, you could catch bigger fish.
In those days, one could be sure of a half-skepti-
cal, wholly absorbed gallery if one fished a bit of
water which allowed the boys of the neighborhood
an uninterrupced view of the proceedings. Also, I
must add, with a sigh, one could be reasonably
certain of producing, for the edification of the spec-
tators, the rise and capture of several fat, butter-
yellow brownies or the less wary, olive-and-black
scarlet-spotted brookies to be slipped, without too
much ostentation, into one's creel.
And now let me say that there are experiences
in the life of every angler so tragic, so bitter, so
filled with regret that for years and years recollec-
tions of them will set him to tossing in his bed and
muttering in his sleep. I propose herewith to record,
as best I can, such an experience. I do so with pain
In a year long since past, along the lower stretches
of a Sullivan County river, my fishing companion and
I parked our car at the edge of the state road and
slid with some difficulty down a shale embankment
to the water's edge. We had read, not long since, La
Branched The Dry Fly on Fast Water, and profited
thereby. Mr. La Branche had not succeeded in mak-
44 SPORTING DAYS
ing purists of us, however. If they were rising, we
fished upstream with the floating fly ; if no trout were
breaking, we fished downstream with the sunken va-
riety. Many years, on many trout streams, have not
caused me to alter this procedure.
We were, accordingly, fully accoutered with all
the clothing and accessories for both wet and dry
fishing. We wore waders and wading socks and
shoes, of course. Our fishing jackets were cut to
meet the tops of the waders, a hand's breadth or so
below our armpits. Abbreviated as these garments
were, their designer had still contrived to endow
them with an unbelievable number of pockets. They
contained front pockets, side pockets, back pockets,
outer and inner pockets, pockets within pockets.
Somehow we had discovered and managed to make
use of them all.
In consequence, from a point well above the waist
down to our gargantuan wading shoes, we presented
an appearance of alarming obesity. Thanks to fly
boxes, leader boxes, an oilskin raincoat, pipe, to-
bacco-pouch, etc., which stuffed our precious pockets
to the bursting, we jutted and bulged from this
point upward in an unexpected, not to say startling
manner, until, at last, the whole was crowned with
a disreputable hat that served at once as a head-
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 45
gear and a sort of pincushion for variously colored
Other details of the ensemble were fishing scis-
sors, dangling on a string which went around the
neck. A leather-bound bottle of fly oil with brush
fastened to the breast of the jacket. A metal rod
holder sewed to the bottom of same. There was,
in addition, a 2O-inch creel, the size made necessary
by the fact that we didn't want to bend the big one
that we hoped and prayed, each time we entered a
stream, would rise and be taken.
To the creel was tied a heavy metal "priest" to
put out of business the long-looked-for monster, to-
gether with lesser fry which came our way in the
meantime. Our nets small, easily handled affairs *
were snapped to a ring sewed in the back of the
jacket between the shoulder-blades. They were also
fastened to the ring by a stout cord, lest they be
dropped into some hurrying river when unsnapped
and in action.
As to my fishing companion of those days. He was
noteworthy for two things : an extraordinary ability
to take trout and an apparent lack of balance while
doing so. This latter characteristic was accounted
for by the fact that the intensity with which he fished
caused him to forget all else, including where and
46 SPORTING DAYS
how he set his feet on slippery or rocky stream beds.
As a result, he was apt to advance between casts in
a series of alarming gyrations that, now and then,
were the forerunners of appalling and complete im-
I called him, in consequence, "The Pelican, or
Great Diver," shortening his full title to "The
Diver" on less formal occasions. As for him, he ad-
dressed me by a wide variety of dubious given names,
none of which was ever, by any chance, my own.
Having arrived at the river's brim, dressed as
above, on the day I am describing, we were con-
fronted by a rush of foam-flecked water smoothing
out as it became the green depths of a pool. The
shadow of an iron bridge lay across this pool. Be-
yond the bridge, on the far side of the stream, a small
hamlet clung to a plateau from which rose abruptly
a cloud-piercing, wooded hill.
I should perhaps mention here that a somewhat
bitter, though concealed, rivalry existed between The
Diver and me as to whose creel would prove the
heavier when night came on. It was our habit to make
a show of giving the other fellow the best pool or
rift, wish him all the luck in the world, and then
sneak off, find better water if possible, and, as The
Diver put it, "Try to make a sucker out of him."
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 47
With the above precedent in mind, The Diver,
on that far day, addressed me as follows: "Well,
Oswald, pick out what you think is good above, or
below, or this stretch here. Take your choice."
Adhering to our formula, I promptly declined the
"I had a better day on the Broadhead than you
did," I reminded him gently. "You take what you
A faint cloud passed across The Diver's face.
"You sure tied into 'em over there," he said with
reluctant admiration. "But listen, Elmer, it was
coming to you after what I did to you I mean
after your tough luck up on the Ausable." The
Diver's eyes roamed up and down the stream,
noting its character and possibilities. "This is a
swell pool, Mortimer, and that rift looks good.
Suppose you take a crack at it here, and I'll go
above and see what it's like up there."
I had crowded an ordinary day's work into the
morning, and had driven the car all the way up
from New York that afternoon. The sun would not
be long dropping behind the hills, I noted. It seemed
best to start fishing at once and where I stood, rather
than to go searching laboriously for more promising
4 SPORTING DAYS
"All right," I decided. "If it's all the same to you,
I'll start in here."
"Suits me, Egbert. I'm on my way." The Diver
waved a courteous rod. "Hope you get 'em, Gus."
He strode off up-stream.
I took a coiled dry-fly leader from between the
moist pads of a leader box and placed it for a more
thorough soaking in a miniature bay at my feet. As
I straightened up, a voice shrilled out above me.
"Pete! Oh, Pete ILookit!"
A boy's face was staring down upon me over the
railing of the bridge. It was joined by another and
another. Presently there were four young faces in a
row, observing me with a mixture of scorn and
"Lookit them pants and them shoes."
"Them's to git in the creek with."
"Must be figgerin' to git in up to his neck."
There was a general suppressed titter.
"Hello, boys," I called.
"H'lo," said one.
The rest said nothing. They simply continued to
take in my bloated and bulging person in rapt silence.
Suddenly the faces disappeared, and I heard high
crescendos of mirth coming from somewhere above.
I was greasing my line when the faces reappeared
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 49
to watch the process with the same wondering atten-
tion that previously they had bestowed upon me.
They watched me finish my line-greasing and put
the line-greaser back in my coat. They watched me
tie on the leader and tie a dry fly to that. They
watched me take the brush from the oil-bottle and
carefully coat the fly. They watched me cleanse the
leader of any possible oil or grease by drawing it
through a cake of leader-soap.
They watched all this in round-eyed silence save
for an occasional breathless "Lookit." Now and then
it was too much for them. The faces would dis-
appear like one, and shrieks of laughter would come
to me to mingle with the chuckle of the more rapid
water at the top of the pool.
At last, all being ready, I waded in. Conscious of
the critical eyes staring down upon me, I must admit
to shooting out an unnecessarily long line on my first
cast and dropping that dry fly like a languid bit of
thistledown well up the pool. I had elected to fish
dry because I had seen the splash of a rising trout
out of the tail of my eye while making my prepara-
tions* Now, for the benefit of my gallery, I proceeded
to give an exhibition of what I regarded as expert
I worked slowly up the pool, shooting out a long
50 SPORTING DAYS
dexterous line with hardly a ripple marking where
it fell. There was no longer any laughter on the
bridge. My rod-wielding was being accorded a close
and, I think, respectful attention.
But nothing came of it. I forgot the gallery in
my efforts to raise a fish. I worked to the top of the
pool, then on up into the rapid water, using shorter,
less dwelling casts. A half hour passed, and I was
still fishless. Then I saw The Diver execute a deft
three-quarter turn-and-stagger just at the head of
the rift. He was coming down-stream, fishing wet.
Since the ridge above the hamlet had already taken
a jagged bite out of the blood-red sun, it was time
I followed a good example.
In changing to a looped wet leader, with one tail
fly and a dropper, I became aware that my gallery
had not deserted me. They had kept me under ob-
servation by following along the state road as I had
worked up-stream. They seemed undaunted by my
failure to produce results. Their attention was as
swerveless as heretofore. Now and then I could see
lips move, but the roar of the fast water in which
I stood drowned their comments, whatever they
might have been.
These faithful followers were blotted out of ex-
istence, so far as I was concerned, a moment later.
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 51
On my second cast down-stream there rolled up from
the very middle of a deep slick between two froth-
rimmed boulders the biggest brown trout I had ever
seen. His mouth opened like a cavern as he en-
gulfed the dropper fly.
Years have passed since then, as I have said, but
I can still visualize that great head and the huge
unhurried roll of him as he turned and went down
with my Wickham's Fancy. How he contrived to
seem leisurely about it in the press of that fast water
is beyond me, but he seemed to dwell for seconds
on the surface of that slick. It was as though he had
risen in a pdhd.
The whole thing had the unreality of a dream.
I had fished a good stretch of water with a variety
of dry flies without a sign of a rise. I had fished
this particular slick not five minutes before, and then
waded along its edge enough to put even a callow
fingerling on his guard. The dropper fly was, to all
intents and purposes, on the surface, and yet this
wise old grandfather who had scorned the previous
offerings I had floated over him had seen fit to come
up and take it. Such is the nature of trout, and of
such are woven the uncertainties, disappointments
and unexpected rewards that go to form the in-
imitable pattern of an angler's day on a trout stream.
52 SPORTING DAYS
I tightened instinctively, mentally bracing myself
for the shocking violence of granddad when he felt
the hook. Strange to say, his resentment was so mild
as to be negligible. He simply sank unhurriedly down
to the bottom to become as moveless as the two
boulders that caused the slick in which he lay.
For perhaps fifteen minutes there he stayed, quite
oblivious to all the pressure I dared use, the light
snell of that Wickham's Fancy and its No. 12 hook
considered. Meanwhile the sun had definitely aban-
doned Sullivan County, New York, for a 1 2-hour
period, and the rushing water all about me was tak-
ing on unbelievable lavenders and pinks and purples
at which one could only strain one's bedazzled eyes.
It was already a bad light in which to net even a
1 2-incher and, so far as I could tell, granddad seemed
prepared to continue resolutely doing nothing until
midnight or beyond.
In my extremity I thought of The Pelican, or
Great Diver. I glanced upstream and saw him about
a hundred yards above me, making his perilous way
down the rift, casting as he came. I let out an old-
fashioned hog-calling welkin-ringer, and he re-
sponded with a banshee's top note signifying that he
would be with me shortly.
A lot of water ran not over the dam but between
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF $3
and past my legs before he at last came near enough
for me to make myself heard above the splash-gur-
gle-roar that made up the song of the rift. He was
spattering casts to right and left of him between
side-slips, skids and some steps from a chorus
"Quit that damcasting," I yelled, "and get here
"Whas-a-matter, Filbert?" he yelled back. "Are
"Listen, fool, IVe got the God-awfullest trout on
that you or I or anybody else ever saw. Hurry!"
As I waited for him to cover the yards, which
seemed like miles, to where I stood I saw my gal-
lery, still in attendance, watching me from the road
with a strained attention that showed their interest
in the situation to be supreme.
Another of their kind appeared on the bridge and
observed the absorbed group on the state road.
"First bat for one ole cat," he shrilled.
The gallery remained entirely loyal to me and my
affair of the moment.
"Forget it," one of them screeched back. "This
guy's hooked a terrible big fish."
The newcomer hastily abandoned all thoughts of
54 SPORTING DAYS
light diversion. Emitting a wild rebel yell, followed
by a series of Indian war-whoops, he galloped to the
scene and became as immersed in watchful waiting
as the rest.
The Diver having arrived at my side, we now
went into conference. It was decided that he should
get below granddad and sneak up on him from the
rear. He laid his rod on the bank and proceeded to
execute this maneuver, net in hand, squinting down
into the slick at the point where my rigid leader dis-
appeared into the water.
"Can you see him?" I yelled.
"I can see something. It looks like a "
The Diver never finished that sentence. In leaning
forward and down in an effort to pierce the multi-
colored surface with his gaze his equilibrium for-
sook him. He waved both arms and the net rapidly
in the air for an instant ere he executed a combina-
tion jack-knife and full-twist into the middle of the
I am still of the opinion that a purple knob on his
forehead which he later displayed was not, as he
claimed, the result of a collision with a stone em-
bedded in the river's bottom. I have ever maintained
that either his head crashed into the broad and stub-
born back of the indignant granddad, or, as I ex-
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 55
plained to The Diver, "He may have slapped you
with his tail."
The moments immediately following The Diver's
exhibition of his art were, like The Diver's waders,
filled to overflowing. He floundered to his feet, but
long before he was once more erect, net still in hand,
I had seen the leader cut through the water as it
passed up and around one of the boulders. The re-
morseless strain on my rod was gone.
Speechless, hopeless, undone, I stared mournfully
at the emerging Diver. And then oh, joy! oh, rap-
ture ! I felt the vibration along the rod that only
a swimming fish imparts. I frantically stripped in
slack. My heart surged as the rod tip bowed again
toward the surface of the stream.
"He's still on!" I yelled. "There just ahead of
you. Net him 1"
Once more The Diver peered dutifully into the
slick with water from his hat brim running into his
eyes. He passed a dripping sleeve across his face
and peered again, then plunged his net below the sur-
face. He brought it up with an eight-inch chub, fast
to my tail fly, writhing in its folds.
I stared stupidly at the bewildered Diver holding
that pitiful minnow up for my inspection. There was
a thunderous silence. At last he spoke.
5& SPORTING DAYS
"K-k-k-kidding me," he said as the temperature
of trout-stream water in early May reached for his
bones. "K-k-k-kidding me. Just a g-g-grade A louse."
And now there arose, well above the noise of the
rift, the most abandoned shrieks of laughter that I
had ever heard. My gallery, no longer able to stand,
were rolling in paroxysms on the state road. I have
heard boys made helpless through the hysteria that
seizes a class of youngsters after some hours of too-
rigid schoolroom discipline; but that was nothing
compared to what the appearance of that despised
chub in The Diver's net did to those Sullivan County
urchins. They took this to be the antagonist that had
held me for twenty minutes in the rift and forced
me to call wildly for aid. This was what all the
clothes and gadgets and preparations at the bridge
had led to an eight-inch chub. It all but slayed
Retreating to the car, I showed The Diver the
snapped snell of my dropper fly that had parted at
granddad's first rush like a single strand from a fine-
haired maiden. I explained to him that the chub must
have taken the tail fly as it swung in the current at
the stern of the stationary leviathan. At last he was
disposed to admit that he had not been the victim
of a foul and repulsive deception.
THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 57
"Didn't you see him at all?" I asked.
"No, P-P-Percival. I saw something down there
that 1-1-looked like a log, but it was as long as my
"That was him," I assured The Diver. "He was
longer than your leg."
As we drove sadly away from that fatal stretch
of river, beginning now to reflect here and there the
pale fires of the first stars of evening, my erstwhile
gallery were still pawing weakly at one another and
emitting exhausted cackles along the edge of the
My First Depression
MY FIRST DEPRESSION
HAVING lost, as the saying goes, "everything/' I
have acquired a reputation for cheerfulness in the
face of disaster that troubles me. I have been told
that the way I take it is "simply marvelous."
It has been so long since I have taken anything
it has been, so monotonously, since 1929, a matter of
having it taken away that the sentence is mislead-
ing from its very beginning. However, let that pass.
The main point is this : I have no urge to leap from
the tower of the Empire State Building, or less
spectacular if equally destructive heights, because
I became, many years ago, completely immune to
economic loss. I was engulfed at that time by a dis-
aster so overwhelming, a catastrophe so numbing in
its effect that the horror of our present depression,
as indicated by the disappearance in to to of my
tangible assets, leaves me comparatively unmoved.
I relate the following facts, therefore, to avoid
any further undeserved encomiums by friends and
62 SPORTING DAYS
neighbors over what appears to be an admirable
stoicism on my part, but which, in reality, is only the
indifference of one who is, so to speak, beyond all
The scene goes back to my earliest years of man-
hood, or better perhaps, of lat* adolescence. At that
time, I was, for some unaccountable reason, study-
ing art. This fact has no significance. It does estab-
lish a locale namely, Cincinnati, Ohio and brings
out the point that I was dependent on an allowance
from home which paid my board, tuition at the art
school and left me about twenty dollars each month
to spend as I saw fit.
Cincinnati is directly across the Ohio River from
Covington, Kentucky, and this is important, because
in those dim, dead, delirious days, one could not
fight chickens in Ohio without the possibility of
annoying activity by lurking minions of the law,
whereas, within the more sportive borders of the
blue-grass state just to the south, one could.
I cannot recall what moved me to journey across
the bridge leading from Cincinnati to Covington to
witness my first cock fight. I do know that I was so
stirred, so thrilled by what I saw, that Saturday
nights thereafter were apt to find me making the
pilgrimage to the cockpit in Covington with the one
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 63
dollar necessary for admittance somehow safe in my
There is now no single spot in this land of the free
and the home of the brave where game cocks may be
allowed to slake their thirst for battle. The situation
contains a statutory paradox. It is largely the result
of pressure upon our legislators by those who seek
to prevent cruelty to animals. Cruelty, if you please !
Worthy gentlemen, sympathetic ladies ! A game cock
embraces combat with the ardor and delight of a
girl at her first ball. In depriving this gallant fellow
of his fisticuffs, you have undone him. His crow has
lost its note of joyous challenge. The bright, wild
fierceness of his eye is dimmed. He was a happy
warrior who might hope to die splendidly before
admiring thousands. He is now a rooster who has
his head whacked off in some unspeakable back yard,
and is then stuck in a pot.
I have digressed. We must return to Cincinnati
and youthful indiscretions. A certain, long-drawn-
out, rather mournful, fellow art student called
Reedy by his intimates was, at that time, the com-
panion of my joys and sorrows. Whither I went,
there went Reedy. What he saw in me I do not
know. I was attracted to him and valued his presence
chiefly because he had been endowed with the most
64 SPORTING DAYS
amazing Adam's apple that my fascinated gaze has
ever dwelt upon.
One never, I remember, looked into Reedy's
countenance during a pertinent conversation; one
glued his eye to the telltale Adam's apple, thus
probing to the bottom of his soul. If Reedy was un-
moved, the Adam's apple remained as steadfast as
an ancient landmark; if he were vaguely disturbed
or slightly interested, it gave a premonitory quiver.
But in moments of stress, when the inner man was
racked by emotion, Reedy's Adam's apple slid up
and down like the hand of a trombone player during
a passage requiring the extremes of virtuosity from
Reedy did not accompany me on amorous adven-
tures. The explanation is simple. I once and only
once took him to call on twin sisters whose pul-
chritude was proclaimed by the entire male popula-
tion of East Walnut Hills. As we departed later
that evening, the twin other than my own took me
feverishly aside and begged that I never bring "that
boy" there again. She explained that she had a rag-
ing headache, due to she hesitated, found her
Be that as it may, Reedy, without noticeable en-
thusiasm, followed me cautiously into this new world
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 65
gaffs and game cocks at a primary cost of one
lar a week. These disbursements would not of
mselves have been insupportable, but worse was
Follow. It is part of the ritual of cockfighting that
; backs one's choice of birds in coin of the realm.
STow, Reedy and I had no reasonable choice in
matter of game cocks. We knew absolutely
hing about them. And yet up to the last dime
our resources that dime being irrevocably
Igeted for car fare we were carried away by
excitement of the rapid betting that preceded
h fight; and selecting one of the birds about to
joined in combat, because we liked his looks or
Dr, or the manner or face of his handler, we
The result was inevitable. One must be in the
>w, to use the vernacular of the pit, before
>ing to profit at a cocking main. Reedy and I
r ays took our last dime sadly away from the
kpit and took the street car back to Cincinnati,
ing lost between us anywhere from two to six
3ame a night, however, when the big idea
raed. It held forth a promise of better things,
vas preceded by an exhibition, brief as the draw-
of one's breath, which left those present secure
66 SPORTING DAYS
in the knowledge that providence had seen fit to
produce at last, from a mere egg, a Juggernaut, a
tornado, an utterly destructive force.
The occasion was the testing and selecting of
Ohio birds that were to be fought in an interstate
main the following week against the best game cocks
of Kentucky. There appeared sometime during the
evening a shambling old man, a well-known breeder
and handler, who held in his arms a heeled stag
i. e., young cock, with gaffs on that he was about
to pit. Now, handlers, as a rule, have nothing what-
ever to say. At this point, however, the old man
spoke up. He addressed the assemblage at large,
"Gents," he said, u this Blue Pyle stag that I'm goin'
to put down ain't never been pitted before. Watch
It will now be necessary for me to describe briefly
the orthodox method pursued by game cocks when
entering into battle. A pair of birds are put down
by their respective handlers at opposite sides of the
pit. Their fierce, golden eyes have already fastened
upon each other. As they find themselves free and
on their feet, they begin a rather stately, seemingly
cautious, approach to the center of the pit, not front
to front but at an angle which suggests that they
are walking and will come together sideways. When
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 67
separated at last by only a foot or so, they whirl
together and go into the air breast to breast, each
shuffling as the rapid striking with their legs is
called at the body of the other.
The unexpected, rather astonishing words of his
handler that night quite naturally focused the
attention of all of us on the small Blue Pyle he held
in his arms. We had time to notice that, as he was
being lowered to the floor of the pit, this young
cock's legs began to move in a sort of pawing mo-
tion. Whether he was already mentally on his way
or was simply feeling for the ground with his feet,
I do not know. At any rate, when dropped the last
few inches by his handler, he lit running and was
across the pit like a flash. When about three feet
from the other cock, he brought his wings into play
and left the ground. Rising like a plane taking off,
he crashed into his unprepared adversary and bore
him completely over and back against the pit wall,
his shuffle sounding like the roll of a muffled drum
as his gaffs found the head and neck of the bird
beneath him. The old man walked across the pit and
picked him up. He crowed once and settled down
quietly in his handler's arms. The other cock lay
moveless dead ten times over dead even as he
was being flung back against the pit wall.
68 SPORTING DAYS
There followed, I remember, an almost complete
silence. In it the old man spoke up. He said, "Boys,
in case you think that was a fluke, I won't unheel
him. We'll just take on any four-pound-six stag
that's here tonight give or take two ounces."
Although I have never before or since seen a bird
pitted twice in the same night, the old man waited
with the Blue Pyle until a suitable adversary was
heeled and brought in, whereupon we witnessed the
identical drama Sudden Death of an Orthodox
Game Cock by a D'Artagnan of the Gaffs that we
had viewed a few moments before. Its author again
crowed, once, when his brief masterpiece was over.
Tumult arose around that cockpit. The assemblage
yelled, swore, stamped and beat one another on the
back. Glancing at Reedy, I took the accomplishments
of his Adam's apple to be a sign of the emotion of
the moment shared by all. I was presently un-
deceived. Reedy, it seemed, had a plan. He confided
it to me when the noise had subsided. It was this:
Death and destruction, in the form of the Blue Pyle,
would undoubtedly appear in the main against Ken-
tucky the following week. He proposed that we raise,
during the next seven days, "a lot of money," as he
put it, and then wager the whole magnificent sum
on this one and only certainty among fighting cocks
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 69
"and not," he added, "piddle away so much as a
nickel on anything else."
My acceptance of Reedy's suggestion, though
brief, was enthusiastic. I said, as I remember, "Kid,
There followed a week of financial activities for
Reedy and me. It was, however, not without its
dreams. We saw ourselves, after Saturday night,
affluent beyond our heretofore wildest hopes. Sur-
feited, so to speak, with riches. The getting together
of "a lot of money" called for and received Her-
culean efforts. We borrowed right and left, promis-
ing on our sacred honors to make restitution the
following Sunday. We pawned our overcoats, our
watches, a pair of silver-backed hairbrushes
Reedy's a pair of chased gold cuff links mine
two leather suitcases, a mandolin, a guitar, our
evening clothes and every suit we possessed except
the ones on our respective backs.
When we made our way to the cockpit in Coving-
ton on Saturday night, we had one hundred dollars,
which I was carrying in a roll in my left hand, the
hand being inserted deep in a trousers pocket.
"Don't," Reedy instructed me, "take your hand out
of that pocket till the time comes."
I nodded dumbly.
70 SPORTING DAYS
What followed was largely the result of a trivial
detail. We happened to take seats on the Kentucky
side of the pit and found ourselves beside an elderly,
soft-spoken Kentuckian, who greeted us pleasantly
with "Howdy, boys!" and presently began to share
with us his boundless knowledge of cocks and cock-
fighting. He had been a breeder of game birds in his
earlier days, and had followed cockfighting, so he
told us, for more than forty years. He knew every
handler from Kentucky intimately. He knew every
bird that Kentucky put down that night, and what
might be expected of him. His astoundingly correct
prophecies as to the probable outcome of various
fights left us dazed. He would say, for example,
"Now, that Black Breasted Red there is one of Newt
Chamberlain's birds over near Paris, They're not
flashy fighters, but they're cutters. They kin lay on
their backs and cut a cock to pieces above 'em. That
there stag Newt's putting down is mighty likely to
win." Whereupon Reedy and I watched a spectacu-
lar Ohio cockerel shuffle all over the Black Breasted
Red, seemingly outclassing him. As the fight wore
on, however, Ohio became steadily less brilliant. He
grew slower and slower. At last he began the telltale
rattle in his throat that indicates deep distress. Pres-
ently he laid him down and died.
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 71
"Thought so," said our friend softly.
Reedy and I exchanged awed glances.
"That's a Henny-Aztec cross of Bud Schermer's
going down now," spake the oracle presently. "Don't
like 'em. All fireworks and no punch. 'Spect he'll be
a sick chicken pretty soon."
He was very !
About many battles our friend ventured no opinion
as to the outcome. "Well, I wouldn't know tough
fight," he'd say, shaking his head. But when for some
inscrutable reason he thought a bird "ought to win"
or was "likely to lose," that bird somehow pro-
ceeded to do so.
Thus the night wore en with my hand still firmly
clasped about our hundred dollars.
At last the oracle leaned forward in his seat, ob-
serving with lighted eyes a cock that had just been
brought in. He said suddenly, "Boys, do you ever
We admitted that upon occasion we had been
known to do so.
"Well," said the Kentuckian, his eyes still on the
gray bird nestling in his handler's arms, "that's one
of Purcell's Dominicks. They're the best strain of
birds in Kentucky. They're the best strain of birds
in the world. They come out of the egg knowin' how
72 SPORTING DAYS
to write their names with a pair of gaffs, and they're
dead game. They kin lay uncoupled on the floor and
take a beak holt and kill a cock. I've seen 'em do it.
This'll be next to the best bird fought here tonight.
The best one is his full brother. He's coming on
later. Boys, I don't want to talk you into nothin',
but I'd advise you to bet a piece of money on that
I half withdrew the hundred dollars from my
pocket and looked at Reedy.
The Adam's apple remained steadfast. His "You
know what we said" was unnecessary.
"But listen," I pleaded, "it isn't as though we're
betting the way we used to. He hasn't been wrong
yet, has he?"
"Not yet," said Reedy.
"Then why should he be wrong now?"
"I dunno. But I gotta get back my clothes and my
mandolin and my hair-brushes. I can't take chances."
"But don't you see," I urged, "we could bet the
whole two hundred dollars on you know what."
"Too late," said Reedy. "There they go!"
And there, indeed, they went. Or rather- the an-
tagonist of the Purcell Dominick went somewhere.
He went straight to whatever place is assigned in
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 73
the hereafter to good game roosters who die trying.
"Yep," said our mentor, "they'll do it every
"Now I hope you're satisfied," I told Reedy.
An hour of just cockfighting went by while we
waited for our big moment, our great reward. The
hundred dollars was almost pulpy in my sweating
palm. At last a gray bird appeared in the pit on the
arm of his handler. He had the head of a silver
snake, with golden, fiercely gleaming eyes below a
thin blood-red ribbon of comb.
"Boys," said the Kentuckian, "here's the other
Purcell Dominick I was speaking about. The cock
don't live that can kill him."
"Reedy!" I pleaded in agony. "Reedy!"
I got the signal I wanted from Reedy's Adam's
apple and had turned to the pit before I heard his
husky "All right!" in confirmation.
I raised my right hand in the teeth of the Ohio
side and called out, "One hundred dollars on Ken-
I was astonished by a forest of waving arms that
grew instantly where there had been none. I heard
in a sort of daze a swelling chorus, "I gotcha, bud!"
"I gotcha, beau!" "I gotcha, fella!" A stocky, red-
faced man pointed a stumpy finger at me to help
74 SPORTING DAYS
fasten my eyes on his. "Listen, kid! I gotcha!' 5 Con-
fused by so many waving arms, deafened by the sud-
den clamor, hypnotized by that urgent, stumpy
finger, I nodded to the red-faced man a confirmation
of our wager.
And then unspeakable horror overwhelmed me,
for there strolled into the pit the same shambling
old man of a week before, and on his arm was the
Blue Pyle, the steel gaffs on his long, slender legs
showing clean and bright against the dark of the
I can close my eyes and see those gleaming, needle-
pointed gaffs today. It was as though they were
about to penetrate my own vitals, or had already
done so, for I was the victim of a sudden all-gone
feeling in the stomach and I felt cold sweat break
out on my forehead. I emitted a groan of anguish.
The old Kentuckian leaned forward and stared
into my face.
"What's the matter, son," he asked, "are you
I said, "Oh, gosh!" and became speechless.
I heard a white-faced Reedy explaining in gasps :
"You see, mister we brought a lot of money over
here to bet on that chicken. Oh, a lot of money,
MY FIRST DEPRESSION 75
mister and he's awful! You don't know. He's
And then a feeble hope stirred somewhere within
me, for the oracle from Kentucky gave a reassuring
"Why, boys," he said, "you ain't got a thing to
worry about. That Dominick '11 go 'round that Blue
Pyle like a cooper round a barrel. He'll just natur-
ally whip hell out of him. Wait and see!"
So we waited. And never have moments seemed
so like leaden hours as in that brief interval before
the handlers stepped to opposite sides of the pit to
put the two birds down.
As I look back on it, I can feel thankful for one
thing. We were not kept long in suspense as to the
result. I feel certain that my pounding heart could
not have stood a desperate encounter between those
two in which the God of battle favored first one
and then the other.
There is, therefore, some consolation in the fact
that the Dominick was destroyed as instantly, as
completely as though struck by a bolt from the blue.
D'Artagnan, the unorthodox, again lit running,
again flashed across the pit, again shot planelike into
the air to find a dead cock between his heels when
he landed. He then crowed once.
76 SPORTING DAYS
I am a mere author. I am no matchless word
painter, ready to perform wizardries in hyperbole,
simile and metaphor. I shall, therefore, not attempt
to describe the action, following that shrill, tri-
umphant crow, of Reedy 's Adam's apple.
POOK DEVOTED A MOMENT TO SCRATCHING HIS
KINKY GRAY DOME.
JAY NORTON WITHERSPOON was, until recently,
what I shall call a synthetic sportsman. A resi-
dent of Westchester County, New York, his gun
room was at once the envy and despair of those who
were allowed to behold its treasures. Within its cabi-
nets were dully gleaming rows of walnut stocks fas-
tened cunningly to expertly bored shotgun barrels of
various makes, lengths and gauges. If you cared to
do so, you could take up a gorgeous weapon, here
and there, snap it to your shoulder and swing it from
right to left or vice versa with Jay Norton's full con-
sent and approval.
One noticed, however, that the Witherspoon back
premises contained only a greenhouse and an impres-
sive three-car garage. There were no kennels, with
runways, in which fretful pointers or setters mut-
tered maledictions over their inactivity and cursed
the aching void that engulfed them between seasons.
This was because Jay Norton's scheme of life
8o SPORTING DAYS
made such querulous dependents unnecessary. He
had begun his shooting at the traps, had then "gone
in n for skeet and later had shared, with other clay-
bird enthusiasts, a determination, cost what it might,
to have "the real thing." They had formed a club,
erected a pretentious dub house on a few thousand
acres of field and woodland and had imported an
English gamekeeper, with several assistants. At this
club, bird dogs were maintained to locate released
pheasants, and hungry hand-reared mallards were
flown, over waiting guns en route to the shores of a
Strings of dead pheasants and equally dead ducks
festooned the club game-room, in consequence. It was
apparent that Jay Norton, with other fortunate club
members, was simply wallowing in the real thing.
What more could any man desire ?
Then came a time when the absence of Jay Nor-
ton was to be noted at all club shoots hidden-trap,
skeet, pheasant or the gluttonous corn-fed mallard,
and this was not all. His disturbed fellow members
began to fear that he had forsworn them completely
in favor of a strange association, not to say close
companionship, with one Pook Roberts a person of
uncertain antecedence and of a rich chocolate hue.
Rumor had it that, morning after morning, the
OLD JOE 8 1
Witherspoon limousine could be observed rushing
along the roads of the vicinity, in various and sundry
directions, and always that impeccable car contained
its equally impeccable owner and the conversely dis-
reputable Pook. It became a growing wonder. For a
time it supplanted the inanities of "The More Abun-
dant Life" as the principal topic of conversation
wherever the elite of Westchester County foregath-
Overhearing several of these discussions, I under-
took to solve the mystery, in a quiet way, and have,
I believe, succeeded in doing so. The key to the
riddle was an hour's talk with Jay Norton himself.
I began it by mentioning the mild furor that his aban-
donment of the shooting club had aroused among the
"Don't I know?" he said. "They've been poking
and prying at me for a month. Well, it won't get 'em
a thing. Let 'em kill half-tame pheasants and barn-
yard puddle ducks and not bother me."
"What about this colored man you seem to be pal-
ing with these days?" I probed gently. "What's the
"Huh I" snorted Jay Norton. "The damned old
buzzard 1" Whereupon he proceeded to disclose the
chains that bound him to the humble, ingenuous-
82 SPORTING DAYS
seeming Pook. I shall reveal them, link by link, quot-
ing the victim only now and then.
On a fatal day, during the preceding shooting sea-
son, Jay Norton, it seemed, had been invited into the
coverts of Morris County, New Jersey, by a business
acquaintance in New York, and there had come
under the insidious spell of the North American
woodcock, or timberdoodle. I say "spell," fully
realizing that it fails, pitifully, to indicate the true
character of the feverish malady that inflicts certain
unfortunates when this long-billed pop-eyed visitor
drops out of the moonlit sky into the winking sihor
of hoar-frosted grasses, to exhume worms from, and
sketch whitewash patterns upon, the loamy floor of
a local thicket.
"Spell," somehow suggests quietness, lassitude,
dreamy inertia. Far from quiet, far from inert, are
those who dash from one piece of cover to the next,
to fight through undergrowth and peer through flam-
ing curtains of autumn leaves in the hope of glimps-
ing a flicker of tan-and-sepia at which to point a gun
and press a trigger as an elusive timberdoodle flut-
ters up in unpremeditated flight.
What is the peculiar fascination of this bird for
the rapt gunner who pursues him in preference to
any other game bird? I do not know. As to woodcock
OLD JOE 83
shooting, I can either take it or let it alone. Not so
the true addict. He will neglect wife, children and
his means of livelihood in satisfying his craving to
pursue and shoot at this flitting, feathered will-o'-
the-wisp of birch and alder thickets.
All this must be borne in mind in considering the
case of Jay Norton. He had contracted woodcock-
itus, if I may call it such, in its most virulent form.
That one day in Morris County coverts had been
enough. The man was undone!
It must also be noted that his companion on that
never-to-be-forgotten day had been the possessor of
a woodcock dog whose performance warmed the
cockles of one's heart like a noggin of vintage Bur-
gundy. He was a perfect bird dog who slipped
through the cover as a yacht cleaves the waves and
found and pointed woodcock until Jay Norton had
shot away two boxes of shells and the shadows of
evening interrupted the proceedings.
To show that the man went suddenly and com-
pletely mad, it is only necessary to say that he tried
to buy the dog, then and there. The astonished
owner, looking at Jay Norton more in pity than in
anger, had led him gently and with soothing words
to the automobile and had driven him swiftly home-
84 SPORTING DAYS
"We'll let it pass," he told the mortified Jay
Norton. "You got over-excited."
Jay Norton's thoughts, through the following
winter and summer, were largely devoted to the
new-found ecstasy that had come into his life. In a
practical way he sought out a certain game warden
residing in White Plains and persuaded the minion
of the law to accompany him on numerous tours of
the surrounding country during which the warden
pointed out various pieces of woodcock cover and
Jay Norton drew maps.
As the shooting season approached the all-impor-
tant question of a dog grew more and more pressing.
Jay Norton had discovered, to his dismay, that the
proverbial hen's tooth was a fairly abundant article
of commerce compared to a really good woodcock
dog. "You hear of one, every now and then," an
honest gun-dog dealer informed him, "but try and
buy him." Alas, Jay Norton had already attempted
to do so. He shuddered at the recollection.
Once again, however, the patient game warden
came to the rescue. He disclosed the fact that, about
six miles out from Scarsdale, on a certain highway,
you made a left-hand turn at a schoolhouse, turned
left again at a woods road just beyond a red barn,
followed the woods road for about half a mile and
OLD JOE 85
thus came to a shack standing in a small clearing,
surrounded by swamp land and thickets. This shack,
with an acre or so of clearing, would prove to be the
domain of Pook Roberts, who, the warden assured
Jay Norton, hunted woodcock, kept a dog or two
and would sell anything.
Following directions carefully, Jay Norton suc-
ceeded in coming upon an elderly colored citizen im-
mediately in the rear of the designated shack. With
his arm encircling a tin wash-basin of cracked corn,
he was scattering its contents upon the ground while
emitting a steady "chuck, chuck, chuck" at a rapidly
approaching circle of nondescript hens. On the
warped boards of the rear porch lay a dog. He was
a sort of brickish color, according to Jay Norton,
splotched here and there with dirty white. One would
have called him a setter, no doubt, with perhaps a
trace of farm shepherd. Jay Norton, eyeing this
specimen doubtfully, addressed the earnest chicken-
"Are you Pook Roberts?"
"Yes-suh. Chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck I"
"My name is Witherspoon."
"Yes-suh, I know who you is."
"I'm looking for a good woodcock dog."
"Yes-suh. Chuck, chuck, chuck, chuclcl"
86 SPORTING DAYS
"I heard you might have one."
Pook searched the wash basin with a black paw
for the last of the cracked corn, went to the paint-
less ramshackle back porch, hung the wash basin on
a nail and opened the rear door of the shack.
"Hyar, Lady. Hyar, Lady," he called.
Out of that forlorn doorway stalked a creature
that made Jay Norton catch his breath. It was, he
admitted, the best-looking setter bitch that his
amazed eyes had ever beheld "a picture setter"
that stood with a proud head and a slowly waving
plume of a tail, to favor Jay Norton with a queen-
"Is is she a woodcock dog?" he managed to
Pook emitted a prolonged chuckle.
"Man, man!" he said.
"Do you want to sell her?"
"Sell her!" echoed Pook in a tone of grieved as-
tonishment. "Lawd, no !"
There it was again, thought Jay Norton. No buy-
ing the good ones I
"Have you got any more?" he asked, despond-
ently. No other dog could possibly interest him, he
felt, with that statuesque figure still filling his eye.
"Jus' ole Joe."
OLD JOE 87
"What's he like?"
Pook chuckled again. "Shuh, a man like you
wouldn't have ole Joe aroun'."
"Could I see him?"
"He's layin' right befo' yo' eyes," said Pook, in-
dicating the hopeless near-setter still devoting him-
self to twitching dream-filled slumber, broken, now
and then, by the pursuit of the ubiquitous flea.
Jay Norton gave the dog a brief glance, then
dropped his hand on the head of the noble bitch who
had strolled to the edge of the porch. Was there,
he pondered, any possible argument that would in-
duce a man, black or white, millionaire or pauper,
to part with such as she ? He decided there was not.
"Well," he sighed, "if you won't sell this one, I
might as well be going."
"It looks like it," agreed Pook. "It looks like no
man in his right mind would want to give up what
it would take to separate me fum Lady."
Jay Norton, who was turning to leave, was sud-
denly nailed to the spot.
The meeting came to order and got down to busi-
ness. As a result of its activities it was agreed that
Jay Norton should arrive at his present whereabouts
on the first morning of woodcock season and, after a
88 SPORTING DAYS
day's hunt over Lady, should, if she proved up to
Pook's veiled hints, bear her home with him, to have
and to hold, for better or for worse, till death should
them part, leaving behind him, in her stead, the sum
Jay Norton was to be congratulated, I think, over
the clause in the contract that assured his seeing the
bitch work before the money changed hands. It
proved this much, at any rate : her beauty had not
entirely robbed him of what some of his associates
claim is an over-cautiousness in fiscal matters.
"I feel right sad," mourned Pook. "I sho' is goin'
to miss castin' my eyes ovah that Lady."
"She hasn't shown me what she can do on birds
yet," Jay Norton reminded him.
This time Pook allowed himself a high cackle of
"Man, man, if you don't kill yo'self the limit by
noon, you go on home and leave her be."
That night Jay Norton's dreams, he confessed to
me, were filled with visions of the wonder bitch
pointing again and again, somewhere in his safely
mapped woodcock covers, while he shot in the grand
manner that one might expect from the owner of
such a creature.
On the morning of the opening day he presented
OLD JOE 89
himself, eagerly, at Pook's abode. Presently they set
forth, accompanied by Lady and Jay Norton
noticed the repulsive inhabitant of the back porch.
"The other dog is coming along," he informed
"He is, sho' enough," said Pook, with a start.
"Well, it's jus' ole Joe. He won't git in the way."
Whereupon he plunged abruptly into an all but im-
penetrable alder thicket some hundred yards or so
in the rear of the shack.
It was, Jay Norton affirmed, about the thickest
piece of cover he had ever been in. To make matters
worse, the ancient negro, who had hobbled creakingly
across the small opening to its edge, now developed
an agility that was surprising. Do what he could, Jay
Norton could not hold himself in line with the sud-
denly rejuvenated Pook as he slid, in eel-like fashion,
through the crowding mass of alders. Always Pook
and the dogs were ahead, somewhere, just out of
sight of the sweating, anxious Jay Norton, At last he
heard Pook's voice raised in abrupt command.
"You, Lady, careful now! Whoah, I say!"
Jay Norton, working along as best he could
through the obscuring riot of alders, received an ex-
hilarating bit of information a moment later.
90 SPORTING DAYS
"Point, Mistah Withaspoon. Right ovah hyar,
suh. Looks like she's got a woodcock."
Jay Norton fought his way toward the sound of
the voice and came upon Pook. Directly ahead of
him stood Lady in a soul-stirring pose. He was not,
he swears, conscious of the presence of the other
dog. He saw only the glorious bitch, stiff as a ram-
rod, and the waiting Pook.
A woodcock twittered up. Jay Norton fired. So,
an instant later, did Pook,
"Lady, fetch! Lady, fetch!" Jay Norton heard.
The bitch swam forward like a swan into a mass
of undergrowth, to reappear with the dead bird
which she dropped, with elegance, into Pook's out-
stretched palm. And that, as Jay Norton put it, was
They proceeded, without leaving the fastnesses of
that alder thicket there seemed to be miles of it
to kill the limit. Old Joe, as Pook had promised, did
not, at any time, "get in the way." Only once did
Jay Norton become aware that he had any interest
whatsoever in woodcock. Having struggled to Pook's
side upon one of his declarations of "Point, Mistah
Withaspoon," he found Joe's nose slightly ahead of
"You, Joe!" said Pook, reproachfully. "What
OLD JOE 91
you doin'? Doan' you lemme ketch you tryin' to
steal her point that-a-way. Back whar you belong!"
Jay Norton was faintly astonished to observe the
shabby setter slink, apologetically, to the rear.
By eleven o'clock that morning it was all over.
The Witherspoon limousine was making its way, re-
gardless of possible scratches on its satiny mudguards
and body, out the woods road toward the state
highway. On the back seat of the car Lady, the wood-
cock queen, posed in all her grandeur.
Pook had been left counting, for the third time, a
number of bills whose total, he was making certain,
was the sum of $250. Old Joe slept peacefully in a
patch of sunlight on the weathered boards of the
Three days later the selfsame limousine re-
appeared in that woods road, heading, even more
recklessly, toward the former home of the magnifi-
cent Lady, who again was gracing the rear seat. In
explanation I shall quote Jay Norton verbatim.
U I hunted her for two days," he told me, "and
she pointed stink-birds, mud-turtles, meadow-larks,
rabbits, squirrel tracks, stray cats, snakes every-
thing but woodcock. On top of that, she must have
pointed five hundred times at nothing. She'd sooner
point than eat. She fancied herself doing it. She
92 SPORTING DAYS
thought it made her look nice. And by God, it didn't
mean a thing ! Two hundred and fifty smackers and it
didn't mean a thing! He'd put it over on me in that
damned alder patch. It came to me when I found
out what a phony she was.
"This Joe was hell on wheels better than the
Jersey dog and he understood every word the old
nigger sajd. When he found a woodcock, that female
four-flusher came up and backed or false-pointed or
something, and that old black so-and-so had Joe slide
out of the picture so it looked good when I got there.
If we killed the bird, he let her retrieve. She'd do
that, all right. I'd simply paid two-fifty for a re-
To return abruptly to the scene of action: Jay
Norton piled from the car and confronted Pook.
"You sold me the wrong dog," he declared. "I
want the other onel"
"Shuhl" said Pook. "Doan 5 tell me you want ole
Jay Norton made it clear that Joe was exactly
what he did want and that he proposed to get him.
"Here's your bitch," he said. "We'll just ex-
Pook devoted a moment to scratching his kinky
OLD JOE 93
"Well, sub, Mistah Withaspoon," said he at last.
"I aim to do right by everybody, but a man's got to
think about hisself some too. You bought one dog
an' paid the money, an' hyar you is talkin' about an-
other. Ole Joe ain't Lady egzactly. He ain't got the
style. Lots of folks might kind of look down on ole
Joe. But he suits me, I knows his ways, an' he knows
mine. I don't rightly see how I could let him go."
Once more business matters absorbed the meeting.
As a result, Jay Norton left Lady and a hundred dol-
lars and again drove away. This time he told him-
self that, at a price, he had secured the real thing,
for old Joe was crouching uneasily just behind him
amid the too-luxurious appointments of the speed-
Woodcock shooting, in Westchester and sun
rounding counties, is largely a matter of working a
small piece of cover and then going on to another.
Jay Norton drove, with an eye on his map, to the
nearest bit of woodcock ground next morning. Old
Joe, still abashed by the splendors of the limousine,
slunk from its interior, at command, and promptly
found a woodcock, which Jay Norton missed.
The bird left for parts unknown; and since he
proved to be the sole member of his species in that
particular cover, Jay Norton determined to drive
94 SPORTING DAYS
on. He returned to the car, opened its rear door, and
signified that old Joe should enter and there find
ease and comfort.
Old Joe looked once at the car and once at Jay
Norton before fading from view along a line that
would ultimately bring him to the patch of sunshine
on the rear porch of the shack on the woods road.
That he arrived there safely Jay Norton could not
doubt after driving over next morning and observing
him stretched contentedly in said patch of sunshine,
snapping at an occasional fly that the warmth of
Indian summer had encouraged to linger on.
The queen slumbered regally in the doorway.
Pook, seated on the single step of the porch, was
deep in the picking of a headless, yellow-legged Ply-
mouth Rock cockerel.
"I been kind of expectin' you, Mistah Witha-
spoon," he said.
Jay Norton grunted.
Pook freed the back of his hands of some cling-
ing, wet feathers and glanced thoughtfully toward
the patch of sunlight on the porch.
"Seems like that ole Joe's what you might call a
home dog. You got to kind of watch him that-a-
Jay Norton, too moved for utterance, took old
OLD JOE 95
Joe by the collar, led him to the car and plumped
him unceremoniously therein. He had a feeling, so
he told me, that he was "behind the eight ball again."
This suspicion was swiftly verified. Taking old Joe
afield that afternoon, he was awed by the speed and
certainty with which he found and pointed the three
woodcock which the piece of cover contained. Then,
as Jay Norton swung toward the waiting car, the
dog, with equal speed and certainty, abandoned
woodcock hunting in favor of a rapid return to his
Again and again and yet again Jay Norton went
after his three-hundred and-fifty-dollar investment,
and again and again and yet again old Joe left him,
when the first cover hunted was cleaned of birds and
it was time to move on. Should Jay Norton try to lay
guileful hands upon him, once he was out of the car,
he departed instantly, to arrive with extraordinary
dispatch on Pook's back porch.
That worthy was at last moved to describe the
situation in words that struck Jay Norton as shock-
"It seems like that ole Joe jus' won't stay sold."
Jay Norton eyed him balefully.
"How many other suckers have bought this dog?"
96 SPORTING DAYS
Pook concentrated in thought "All told?"
Jay Norton erupted suddenly. Words that
smoked, steamed and sizzled blasted the air about
"Calm yo'self, Mistah Withaspoon," Pook ad-
vised. "Jus' calm yo'self. Everything is going to be
"How?" Jay Norton wanted to know.
"I figure it this-a-way, Mistah Withaspoon. A
man's got to be fair in this world. Fair and square.
Ef he hain't, sooner or later he's goin' to git in
wrong with his friends and neighbors. A dollah is a
dollah ain' no denyin' that but a man's got to
feel right about how he earns it, or that dollah ain'
goin' to do him no good."
"So what?" asked Jay Norton, hopefully.
"Well, suh, the way it is, you ain' gettin' no real
satisfaction out of ole Joe now is you?"
"All right. Let him have his way about this kinda
wantin' to hang around hyar. I'll keep him f oh you
at jus' egzactly what it costs me say fifteen dol-
lahs a month."
"Go on I" said Jay Norton.
"Whenever you want a nice hunt with him, you
come on out hyar an' I'll go 'long with you an' see
OLD JOE 97
that ole Joe does his duty by you. I'll charge you
egzactly what my time's worth, and not a penny
Jay Norton was regarding Pook with much the
same look that a rabbit might bestow on an encircling
"Go on !" he said again.
"Figurin' my time right down to the bone would
bring it to ten dollahs a day."
That the offer was accepted goes without saying.
Strong men are weaklings, as I have already inti-
mated, when under the strange enchantment cast
by the timberdoodle. Jay Norton summed it up in his
later talk with me.
"Xo get a decent day on woodcock, I've got to
take that black highbinder with me and pay him ten
bucks; but," he assured me firmly, "legally legally,
mind you I own old Joe or do I?"
The Fall of Mr. Barnstople
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE
HERO worship, in the very young, will, now and
then, assume the aspects of a profound mystery. For
some entirely incomprehensible reason Bill or Jerry
or Mary Ann will select a singularly uninspiring in-
dividual on which to bestow a deep if childish loyalty,
and will continue to seek out and idolize this dubious
object of affection despite reason, ridicule or re-
Then, quite as unexplainably, the adored one loses
his or her appeal to the relief of still puzzled
elders and is, for the most part, quickly forgotten.
My own first and most virulent attack of hero
worship followed conventional lines except in the
last regard. I shall never, I feel sure, forget one
Zeke Barnstople. Furthermore, I can recall the exact
hour yea, the very minute on which he fell from
the heights to the extreme depths of my esteem for
reasons that should be clear to such readers as pur-
sue this narrative to its close.
102 SPORTING DAYS
Zeke was a painter and paper hanger in fact, the
painter and paper hanger of our town, since, at that
time, ceaseless and all-pervading competition had
not made living the desperate affair it is today.
There was work for everybody too much of it, at
certain seasons, for Zeke. All spring and summer
his paste and paint brushes slap-slapped from dawn
till dark in an effort to "oblige folks" who wanted
to know just how soon he could get at their house
or barn or parlor or spare bedroom that had been
let go too long "a'ready." This was particularly un-
fortunate since his one great passion could be in-
dulged in only during the warm, bright days when
the town clamored at his door and hounded him
from "one job of work" directly into another.
Zeke, by instinct and desire, was a fisherman. He
talked of catching fish, he dreamed of catching fish ;
but that was about all. He was forced to discuss bait
while dipping a brush into a paste bucket; tackle as
he adjusted a painting ladder. Luckily, however, one
day of the year, on which fishing could be indulged
in, was his. He could be browbeaten into working on
Decoration Day and always was. Christmas, New
Year's, Thanksgiving might find him on a scaffold
or bending over a floor; but the day on which his
natiye land commemorated its dedication to freedom
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 103
must not find him a slave to paint or paste brush.
Bearing one of the axioms of a certain noble declara-
tion in mind, he devoted each Fourth of July to the
earnest pursuit of happiness. He went fishing!
Zeke came into my life because of a spring fresh-
ening of the interior and exterior of our home. As
his paint or paper brightened our clapboards, side
walls and ceilings I hovered in the background, at a
respectful distance. This was my first observation of
manual labor at close range a fascinating spectacle,
I have since observed, to more adult eyes. Further-
more, this particular activity was, I was soon con-
vinced, among the more enviable and higher forms
of art. I decided to adopt it as my future calling,
forthwith, and longed for the drab and lagging days
of youth to speed their passing, bringing me to the
stature required to handle a wide paste brush and
paste bucket plus a roll of ceiling paper on the dizzy
heights of a seven-foot scaffold.
If these were my reflections over the mere hang-
ing of wallpaper, my enthusiasm, a few days later,
as I observed the application of delicious-looking
cream-yellow paint to porch posts and railings knew
no bounds. This, I told myself, was the absolute
peak in delightful occupations. My one fear was that
104 SPORTING DAYS
the immense dexterity required in its consummation
could never be mine.
Watching a small brush, dipped in rich mouth-
watering chocolate follow down a windowpane
frame, without leaving a trace of its passage on the
glass, my hopes collapsed. A lifetime would not make
such miracles possible for me. My admiration of the
brush-wielder increased in proportion to my despair
of ever approaching his amazing, God-given virtu-
Until now I had not ventured to address genius
at its task, but this last dazzling exhibition forced
admiring exclamations from me, followed by timid
questions and more or less preoccupied replies from
Zeke. Presently I became aware that he possessed
still another attribute, perhaps the rarest of them
all. I learned, subsequently, that a not-too-successful
operation during an infantile attack of diphtheria had
disarranged his epiglottis. The result was that this
normally uninteresting organ became, in the throat
of the adult Barnstople, a delightful instrument
which, when he spoke, produced, at priceless inter-
vals, a musical note not unlike the twitter of an
alarmed canary. The sound, if Zeke were either
bored or indifferent, was a sort of "tweet." In mo-
uents of greater animation it became "tweet, tweet,"
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE I<D$
or even, when deep emotion gripped him, "tweet,
This disclosure of Zeke's richest gift was too much
for me. I surrendered completely. The last course
of my midday meal consisting of a substantial wedge
of huckleberry pie, I looked at it longingly for a
moment, then overcame temptation and galloped
with it to the side porch on which I had last seen my
new-found hero stretched at ease beside a dented
dinner pail. In order to impress him to the fullest,
I seized a toy pistol en route and shot him through
the heart before presenting him with the wedge of
"Look out tweet how you handle that weapon,
young fella," he advised.
"I'm ole Cap Collier," I let him know as I low-
ered the pistol and presented the wedge of pie.
"Here, take it I"
Zeke eyed the delicacy with restrained approval.
"Well, now, Cap, just where did you get this here
piece of pie?"
"Mother gave it to me," I evaded* "It's for you,
"Now, that's real thoughtful of your Maw, tweet.
You thank her kindly for me, Cap."
The wed^e of Die changed hands. There followed
106 SPORTING DAYS
an interval devoted by Zeke to unhurried mastica-
tion, while I, not without certain unworthy pangs,
kept my eyes resolutely away from the absorbing
spectacle. At last Zeke brushed some crumbs from
his paint-spattered overalls with one hand and re-
moved a dab of huckleberry juice from his stubbled
chin with the back of the other.
"Do you ever go fishin', Cap?" he inquired.
I told him that as the result of protracted efforts
I had succeeded in extracting several sunfish from
the town reservoir.
"Well, now, what do you think of that," said
Zeke. "But I was referrin' especial to pickril and
"Gee," I said, "I'd like to catch a ole pickerel or
a ole bass."
"How about me an' you tryin' it some day?"
"Gee, gosh! Mister Barnstople, would you take
"Gee, gosh! When?"
"How'd Fourth of July strike you?"
"Gee, Mister Barnstople, that's more'n a month.
Couldn't we go sooner?"
"It don't look like it. It don't look like I'd get a
breathin' spell between now and then. I can set right
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE IO/
here and count off jobs I've promised that'll, tweet,
bring me right into September."
Cast dawn for a moment, I brightened at a
"What about Sundays?"
"Six days shalt thou labor, an' do all that thou
hast to do," quoted Zeke sternly, "but the seventh
is the Sabbath, tweet, of the Lord thy God, J'ever
hear that, young fella?"
I admitted some knowledge of the command with
which the Deity had seen fit to smite my particular
"Well, then, why'd you make a remark like you
done? You, tweet, tryin' to lead me astray?"
"Oh, no, Mister Barnstople. Gee whiz!"
"Well, we'll let it pass. You just hold yourself
ready for the Fourth."
I gave up with a sigh and considered the ages
that intervened between the early part of June and
the Fourth of July. Then came a sobering recollec-
tion of what that day meant in other transcendent
joys. I hastened to put my thoughts into words.
"But, Mister Barnstople, I most generally shoot
firecrackers and torpedoes and nigger chasers all
108 SPORTING DAYS
Zeke regarded me with thoughtful gravity for a
"Sure enough," he said at last. "Well, everyone to
his taste, I expect we'll have to call it off, tweet.
J'ever hear of Mud Pond?"
"I know where Darby's Pond is and Round
Pond," I boasted.
"I'm not talkin' about Darby's Pond or Round
Pond or Chet's Pond or no other pond that every-
body knows about, tweet. I'm talking about Mud
Pond tweet an' I'm askin' you again if you ever
heard of it?"
"No, sir; I never did."
"Thought not. Mighty few has. Know what's in
"Pickril as long as you! Tweet!"
"Fact tweet I seen 'em."
Zeke went on to explain. Mud Pond, he told me,
was "spang in the middle" of Holder's swamp a
forbidding stretch of marsh land and thicket some
miles to the north. The pond itself was no more than
a pot-hole of a few acres surrounded by a thin strip
of bog. "Projectin' round up there" during an idle
day of the past winter, Zeke had found the pond
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 109
covered with a sheet of transparent ice. Gazing down
through the broad window of ice into the amber
depths below, he had beheld a sight that, as he de-
scribed it, brought forth a rare double tweet.
"As shore as I'm settin' here tellin' you, Cap," he
declared, "they was pickril cruisin' round down
there that'd go & yard tweet, tweet easy."
Zeke had returned home dazed but full of plans.
He "aimed" to go back next day and fish through
the ice, until confronted by the thought that he
didn't have the proper bait and the grip of winter
made access to it impracticable.
"Minnies is what them ole sockarinos wanted,
Cap. Minnies or frogs tweet. But they wusn't no
frogs, acourse, an' everything was friz up so tight I
couldn't get holt of no minnies. Then right away,
before I could get it studied out, tweet, they raised
enough money to have the Revrund Honeycut's house
papered, an' there I was."
"Gee whizl" I gasped* "Do you suppose they're
"You bet they're there. How they goin' to get
out? An' I know what they want, this time of year
tweet minnies I It's like this, Cap. Them pickril
got to be that big by wolfin' down frogs. That ther
1 10 SPORTING DAYS
place is squirmin' with frogs all summer; so I'll give
"Why not frogs, Mister Barnstople?"
"How does ice cream strike you, Cap?"
"Well, what if you had to eat it, tweet, three
times a day, an' nothin' else, for six months?"
I contemplated the exquisite thought for a mo-
ment, letting its delightful possibilities have their
way with me.
"No, sir, it wouldn't be 'm-m-m' ; it ud be 'take it
away' I You'd get so, tweet, you couldn't look at a
plate chocolate or vanilly or nothin'."
Only my measureless respect for the man, as an
artist, kept me silent in the face of this preposterous
"That's why I'll use minnies for them pickril, 1 *
Zeke went on. "Frogs has lost their zest. That is, if
I can figger a way to get a minnie in where they're
"What do you mean, Mister Barnstople?"
"Well, Cap, you can't get to the pond by a good
thirty feet on account of it bein' so treacherous all
around the edge. Then these here pickril is layin' in
a hole forty feet or so beyond that. I been studying
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 1 1 1
some, and I've got the thing pretty near set. I'll have
everything right by the Fourth, tweet. All I'll have
to watch out for is one of the big ones pullin' me
right on into the pond, tweet, when he takes holt."
The one o'clock whistle at the planing mill blew.
"There she goes! We've got to get back on the
job." Zeke rose by sections and stretched prodigi-
ously. "Hand me that can of turp, over there on the
railing, Cap, like a good fella."
Swelling with pride, I hastened to obey.
Two days later Zeke hailed me from a painting
ladder as I reported for duty immediately after
"Got it, Cap tweet. It come to me in the night."
"What did, Mister Barnstople?"
"How to get a minnie in to them pickril. It'll work
like goose grease. It puts 'em at my mercy, when
the Fourth comes around."
"Oh, Mister Barnstople, take me with you."
"How about, tweet, them firecrackers an* all?"
I hesitated for an instant only. The possible spec-
tacle of Zeke battling to remain on dry land against
the remorseless pull of a giant pickerel swept me
into emitting words of sacrilege that I had never
dreamed could pass my lips.
112 SPORTING DAYS
"What's a lot of ole firecrackers?"
"All right, Cap, tweet. It's a deal!"
In the endless weeks preceding the Fourth, Zeke
perfected his plan of attack on the giant pickerel of
Mud Pond. His munitions of war consisted chiefly
of a stout fifty-yard handline with a short wire leader
and a three-ounce oval-shaped sinker. This last was
bored from end to end, so that the line could pass
freely through it. A swivel prevented the sinker from
running down the leader, but a fish could take out
line at will, when first seizing the bait, with no sus-
picious drag to distract him.
Zeke had sent away to a sporting-goods firm for
line, leader and sinker. He allowed me to inspect
them on the day of their arrival. I then accompanied
him into his back yard, where he proceeded to "kind
of get his hand in," as he put it. Coiling the line at
his feet, he seized the end close to the sinker and pro-
duced a gradually increasing whirl, ending in a heave.
When a heave at last succeeded in taking out forty
yards of line, Zeke favored me with a cunning wink.
"Cap," he said, "we'll teach them pickril not to
cough in church!"
On the evening preceding the Fourth, Zeke and I
betook ourselves to Skank's Creek, a sluggish stream
not far from town to secure the all-important u min-
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 113
nies." We were equipped with a seine and a minnow
bucket. Zeke wore a pair of hip boots. Scorning such
impedimenta, I elected to shed shoes and stockings
and go in "barefoot" to handle my end of the seine.
Owing to parental control, going without shoes
and stockings was a luxury that was seldom mine.
My feet, in consequence, shrank from the unyielding
bottom of Skank's Creek. Before enough carefully
culled black sucker minnows were secured, my big
toes had been stubbed into a state where amputation
seemed the only recourse and the bottoms of my feet
were stone-bruised to such an extent that each step
I took sent a wave of anguish up my body to end
with a jolt at the top of my head.
Somehow I managed to limp back to Zeke's to
see that the minnows, won at such fearful cost to my
underpinning, were safely sunk in a pool in a small
spring run just back of his house. I then hobbled
homeward, leaving to Zeke the task of borrowing
a horse and buggy which would bear us the six miles
to Mud Pond the following morning and serve, like-
wise, for our triumphant return.
The Fourth dawned cloudless and without the
faintest breeze. It promised to be a hot day. Getting
my shoes on proved to be a matter of sheer will
power, and the walk of a quarter of a mile from my
114 SPORTING DAYS
house to Zeke's required something of the same spirit
which, some years later, took men up trench ladders,
and over the top.
Zeke met me at his door.
"Got some bad news for you, Cap. Everybody's
using their rigs for the Fourth. Looks like, tweet,
we'll have to step it."
The curious reticence of youth ! I remember that
standing, so it seemed, on red-hot coals, I only said,
"All right, Mister Barnstople."
"What worries me," said Zeke, "is our minnies,
tweet. We're goin' to have to freshen 'em up three
or four times between here an' the pond, or they're
goin' to die on us. We got to take the Ridge Road,
an' it's quite a climb down to water anywhere along
there. Well, we'd better get started."
How far we had gone along the Ridge Road I can
not say I imagine the Indian Fakirs, who walk un-
shod on knife blades, are poor judges of distance
when Zeke set down the minnow bucket and began
to slap his person, first here, first there, in an un-
"My goodness ; tweet, tweet," he said, "I've went
and left the sinker back home 1"
I promptly moved to a beckoning log and sank
down, grateful for the catastrophe that had brought
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE
me a moment of ease. I did not greatly care what
its aftermath might be.
"Well, Cap, I got to go back an' fetch it. Let's
see how our minnies is makin' out."
Zeke raised the cover of the minnow bucket and
peered within. "Spry as crickets, tweet, so far. Now,
listen; they ain't goin' to stay that way long when
the sun gets up good. You set here in the shade an'
watch J em, Cap. If they begin to come to the top
for air, hustle down to the brook an' put fresh water
in the can. The brook's down that bank t'other side
of them evergreens. It's pretty steep, but you can
make it. Fll be quick as I'm able."
I watched Zeke stride back the way we had come,
then took up my task of observing the minnows a
black cloud in the confining circle of the minnow
bucket. It was not unpleasant sitting there in the
shade. The burning of my feet had noticeably sub-
sided when they were no longer forced to bear me
onward. Then I heard the faint note of an attack-
ing mosquito and slapped at the sound, One lit on
my wrist; another on the back of my hand; an ankle
began to itch. In a moment I was the center of a
vicious swarm with which I sat and fought a losing
Presently a look into the minnow bucket revealed
Il6 SPORTING DAYS
a distressing sight. Some of its inmates were at the
top of the water, sucking earnestly for air. Even as I
watched, others rose and joined them. Picking up the
heavy bucket, I limped in the direction of the brook
and came abruptly to a minor precipice, its sides
panoplied by blackberry vines and second-growth.
Far below I could see the gleam of a ribbon of water
so very far below that I decided not to attempt to
get down to it. I would wait for Zeke.
An anxious look at the minnows appalled me. The
top of the water was a mass of sucking mouths, shot
here and there with a streak of silver as a little fish
turned, for a moment, on its side before feebly right-
ing itself. With a gasp of mingled determination and
despair I plunged down toward the brook, tearing
my clothes, scratching my hands and face, but arriv-
ing eventually at the blessed water. It was extra-
ordinary what some of that water did to those min-
nows. I watched their renewed activity with relief
before beginning the climb back to the road.
I still wonder why the labors of Hercules did not
include an attempt to climb a 60 degree slope, cov-
ered with blackberry briers, on a hot July morning,
while carrying a three-gallon minnow bucket* A third
of the way up I fell on my face. The minnow bucket
crashed to earth, the precious water seeking again
THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 1 17
the brook from whence it came, to leave a hoard
of minnows beating a frantic tattoo against the tin
walls of their empty prison.
In a sort of frenzy I picked myself up and, with
the minnow bucket, half slid, half fell, back to the
brook. Once more I assailed the slope and somehow
arrived at the top, on the verge of complete collapse
but with a gratifying amount of water still in the
minnow bucket. I was still gasping for breath when
"What's happened to your face, Cap? It's all
over bumps I"
"It must be mosquito bites, Mister Barnstople."
"Well, what scratched you up like that?"
"Blackberry briers, I guess."
"Been berryin' while I was gone, eh? How's the
minnies?" Zeke dived for the bucket. "Doin' finel"
he said, with relief. "Did you have to water 'em?"
"Yes, Mister Barnstople."
"Good for you, Cap. Well, let's hustle along."
So we hustled along, and the memory of that jour-
ney will be with me till I dose my eyes in my last,
long sleep. Before it was over I would have gladly
sunk into it, then and there. Twice more Zeke was
forced to slide down to the brook and climb back
with the precious "minnies." At the last he looked as
Il8 SPORTING DAYS
forlornly brier-scratched, jaded and sweat-bathec
Ultimately our thrilling goal hove in view. W<
glimpsed Mud Pond, smiling in the sun through wil
lows and high rank grasses. As we came to the edge
of its guarding strip of bog all my pains were for
gotten. I stood there in the broiling sun, shaking witt
excitement. My stone-bruised feet and thoughts oJ
the miles they would have to bear me in returning
me to my home troubled me not at all. In anothei
moment my dreams of the past month would come
true. I would be a close spectator of my hero's combat
with, and undoubted triumph over, pickerel of suet
stupendous size that my imagination had failed tc
Zeke promptly went into action. Taking the hand-
line from his pocket, he coiled it carefully on the
ground. Next he threaded the line with his adroitly
fashioned sinker and tied the wire leader to the end.
He snapped on a hook and selected one of the largest
of the minnows, which he impaled, through the lips,
"All right, tweet. Stand back, Cap, an' gimme
The minnow and three-ounce sinker whirled and
whirled again, ever more rapidly. Then Zeke put his
THE PALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 119
back, his very soul into a breath- taking heave. Min-
now and sinker soared out into space. They were
followed by the line, yard after yard twenty yards,
thirty, forty all of it I
Minnow, sinker and line disappeared into the un-
assailable depths of Mud Pond.
A horrid silence followed the faint splash I had
heard as our entire fishing equipment left us, to re-
turn no more. It was broken at last by Zeke.
"My, my! tweet, tweet, looks like I overdone it
that time, Cap 1"
Came another crushing silence in which my heart
dropped with a thud to the bottoms of my suddenly
Again Zeke spoke.
"No use cryin* over spilt milk. What's done is
done. But don't you fret, Cap I'll tie her to
sumpin' tweet, tweet, tweet nex' Fourth of July."
That was the instant in which my admiration for,
and unquestioning faith in, "Mister Barnstople" left
me as swiftly, with as little chance of returning, as
his fifty yards of line had departed from him.
Lily Belle Gets the Air
THE POINTERS BEGAN TO SOAR BACK AND
FORTH ACROSS THE FIELD.
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR
IT is a rather curious fact that, to most of us, the
indescribable satisfaction of owning the perfect bird
dog comes but once in a lifetime. If fate wills that
this paragon is to be ours during early manhood, we
spend the rest of our years trying to possess his
equal. If we are blessed with his companionship
when the gray has touched our temples and the
shooting eye has difficulty with a grouse or a wood-
cock hurtling through the variegated confusion of
autumn foliage, we are apt to feel, for a time, that
when he is gone our days afield are over.
Approaching this latter period, after twenty
years of searching for another Old Jack grouse
dog extraordinary of my youth I came to suspect
that not only would I never find another like him,
but that if I did his efforts might be wasted. If Old
Jack was just a retrospection, so were the grouse
of yesterday that he had found and held, under any
124 SPORTING DAYS
and all conditions, day in and day out, season after
season, as long as there was breath in his body.
There were still ruffed grouse, to be sure. They
were descended from those very birds, of blessed
memory, that I had frequently kicked out of brush
piles or down tree-tops at Jack's rigid insistence ; but
they had come to possess an almost diabolical knowl-
edge of when and how to take wing, plus the foot-
work of a suburban cock pheasant. They seemed to
know to a yard the killing range of nitro powder
and No. 8 shot and the exact purpose of a man with
a shotgun who appeared among them on any of the
thirty-one rapturous days following October 14. Im-
probable as it seemed, they appeared to be as well
aware of the opening date as I. Prior to that they
would burst up at heart-disturbing distances and roar
recklessly into open glades or along the edge of the
cover a mark for any tyro to shoot at.
Then came the day of days, and I would venture
forth with visions of fan-tailed bombshells nicely set
off against the blue of the sky. My dog would make
game. He would begin to road cautiously toward
an old stone wall. Fifty yards away, on the other
side of the wall, a grouse would slip quietly into the
air, skim the ground for another fifty yards and
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 125
then slice into a hemlock swamp. Later, with cat-
briers viciously assailing my legs, a spider-web
pasted over one eye, a laurel branch poking into my
mouth and nostrils, I would hear his muffled de-
parture somewhere ahead in the gloom of the
swamp. His destination, I came to know, was a
perch well up in a hemlock tree.
Could Old Jack master of thickets that he was
have coped with this sort of thing? I began to
doubt it. The situation was forlorn. I had given up
the hope of finding another super grouse dog, and
should I succeed in doing so I doubted his ability to
handle birds that were acquiring, more and more as
the seasons passed, the distressing habits of a Blue
Ridge wild gobbler.
Then a long-legged son of Georgia, who can pick
out two cock quail on a covey rise and kill them
stone-dead, came up into Yankee land on business
and joined me for a day's grouse shooting. At two
o'clock he dropped his gun into the hollow of his
arm and spoke somewhat as follows: "Listen. What
I say is nuts to this. It would take a cross between
a so-an'-so jackass and a so-an'-so swamp nigger to
relish chasing these so-an'*so ruffled grouse around
through cover that you wouldn't have the heart to
send a so-an'-so coon dog into. These birds ain't fit
126 SPORTING DAYS
for human society. They can outsmart a mule trader.
Which-a-way is the car from here ? I reckon I'll go
find it and take a load off my feet."
Later, before a birch-wood fire, he again touched
lightly on the subject of my favorite form of
"So you were brung up on these so-an'-so ruffled
grouse," he mused. "Well, you've got to go easy
with a man when it comes to that kind of thing. It
looks like I've got to make allowances about what
you like to shoot at, on account of your upbringing;
but you come down to Atlanta on January first, and
I'll take you into south Georgia and put you on a
nice-gaited, sure-footed saddle hoss, with a pair of
wide-going pointers out there doing their stuff, and
right soon I'll show you something to bang away at
that you can really see."
In such fashion was I transplanted to the South*
I took my friend at his word. That first trip weaned
me from the ultra-suspicious ruffed grouse of the
Catskills and started me on a search, for bold,
wide-going pointers that one could follow at ease
on a saddle horse with a 2O-gauge stuck in a scab-
bard dangling ahead of the right leg and a pleasant
Southern sun beaming down on it all.
Those were the days of plenty. I elected to ac-
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 127
quire a kennel of such dogs. I was aided and abetted
in this undertaking by my friend. With headquarters
in Atlanta he acquired, by some method that es-
caped me, knowledge of most of the gun dogs in
south Georgia. If word of a sufficiently promising
candidate came to him, we would motor to the
county where the dog was owned and spend a day
in the field shooting quail over him. Rarely would
my friend recommend his purchase.
"Well, he's not a bad sort of a dog," he would
opine. "I'd like to see him go up to his coveys a
little more bold like, and he don't hunt his ground
just to suit me, all the time. Piddles around some
if you noticed. I don't reckon I'd bother with him.
Let's get on back to Atlanta."
On the occasion of my first purchase I received a
shock. We had spent an exhilarating day shooting
over a black, white and ticked pointer that, as my
friend confided to me in guarded tones, could do
"Leave the dickering to me," he advised. "You
just keep still"
Presently the dog's owner a share cropper in
striped blue denim overalls my friend, the tired
dog and I were grouped at the running-board of
1 28 SPORTING DAYS
"Right nice little dog," said my friend. "What
would you expect to get for him?"
"Wouldn't take a cent less than seventy-five dol-
lars," the share cropper announced firmly.
I doubted that I had heard aright. My impulse
was to count seventy-five dollars quickly into a cal-
loused palm and whisk the dog away to Atlanta
before his benighted owner came to his senses. I was
stupefied to hear my friend emit a loud guffaw
and climb into the waiting automobile.
Thirty minutes later we drove away from the
share cropper's bare, red-clay front yard and headed
for Atlanta. The dog was quietly snoring on the
back seat of the car. He had cost me forty-five dol-
lars. In this manner I acquired four dogs all point-
ers and one small, snipe-nosed setter bitch, named
Myrtle, whose history I have recorded elsewhere.
Seldom does one man own at one time five better
quail dogs. The top price that I had paid for any of
them was sixty dollars; but my friend pointed out
to me that we had been "held up," as he put it,
because "the papers went with him."
I had thought that my kennel was now complete
and our search abandoned. One evening my tele-
phone rang. It proved to be my friend, who in-
formed me that we were leaving town at six o'clock
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 129
next morning to drive to Bainbridge, Georgia, two
hundred miles south.
"What for?" I asked.
I had detected a strange, suppressed excitement
in the voice I had been hearing. Now it lowered to
become hoarsely confidential. "I hear you can buy
"So what?" I said.
There were sputterings from the other end of the
wire that finally became intelligible. "Listen, Yank.
Decatur Jack is a bird dog what I mean, a bird
"But I've got five bird dogs now," I reminded
"Ain't that awful," said the voice. "He calls
them things he's got bird dogs when I'm talking
about Decatur Jack."
"Well," I said, "I can't go. I'm meeting a fel-
low from New York that is getting in on the Cres-
cent. You go down and buy him for me, if you think
I ought to have him."
"Ought to have him! Good God A'mighty!"
Words seemed to fail him. I heard the telephone
click as he hung up.
At 7:00 P.M. the following evening my friend
got out of a mud-spattered car and led a bird dog
130 SPORTING DAYS
to my door. He was a huge, clumsy pointer pure
white except for one pale-lemon-colored ear. His
luminous amber eyes were slightly bulging and filled
with a sort of humorous tolerance of things in gen-
eral and me in particular. He gave the impression
of being more at home in strange surroundings than
any creature I have ever seen. Acknowledging the
amenities between host and guest with a swing or
two of his club-like tail, he slumped down in front
of the drawing-room fire, yawned prodigiously,
dropped his big head on his mastiff-like paws and
went to sleep.
"Well, there he is Decatur Jack," said my
friend. "I stole him for you."
"How much?" I asked absently as I stared at the
great dog that suggested a large white calf stretched
incongruously before an open fire.
"Four hundred," said my friend exultantly.
And now my startled eyes left Decatur Jack and
swung abruptly to the dispenser of these tidings.
"Four hun " I began.
"Yep. I'd have given a thousand, if they'd only
"Why?" I managed to ask.
My friend regarded the sleeping pointer thought-
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 131
"Fooling around up North with those ruffled
grouse has kept you from hearing about this dog,
but there ain't a bird hunter, from here to Savannah,
that wouldn't give his right leg for him. My father-
in-law's in town, and Lily Belle will kind of expect
me to show the old man around tomorrow, so I
won't be able to go with you ; but you take this dog
out somewhere where there's quail, and that'll save
me a lot of talking."
It so happened that I had promised to hunt next
day with a bird-dog enthusiast, a real estater by pro-
fession, who seldom touched upon the subject of
salable property. So far as I had been able to judge,
his waking hours were given to disclosing the merits
of a pair of pointers which he kept, in a birdy sec-
tion, near Greenville, Georgia. It was over this pair
that we proposed to shoot; but morning found me
at the door of his Atlanta home with Decatur Jack
asleep on the floor of the car.
"What have you got in here?" demanded the real
estater, peering at my recent purchase.
"Dog I just bought," I informed him*
"I've heard he is. Thought we'd work him some
today and find out."
"Sure, surel" He climbed into the car. "You're
132 SPORTING DAYS
certainly going to see something when we get to
Greenville. I'm going to show you a pair of real
bird dogs. You're going to love every move they
I did not love the first move the male dog of the
pair made when we opened the rear door at Green-
ville to let them into the car. He bristled, drew back
his lips and growled ominously at Decatur Jack.
The big pointer lifted his head from the car floor
and turned it, to take in the brawler, with great,
sleepy amber eyes. He looked at the quarrelsome
one with complete indifference for a moment, then
dropped his head to the floor again and resumed his
nap. The newcomer subsided with a last few mut-
tered curses. It was as though a great gentleman,
dozing in a club window, had silenced a vociferous
newsboy with a casual stare.
Greenville is not in the flat lands of south Georgia.
It is a rolling country which is hunted on foot. We
presently stopped at the scene of our first activities
a large billowing field in which two coveys were
supposed to reside. As the car door was opened the
Greenville pointers shot away and began to soar
back and forth across the field like a pair of air-
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 133
"Look at 'em go !" their owner exulted. "Can they
travel I ask you?"
"They surely can," I admitted, keeping half an
eye on Decatur Jack, despite the pyrotechnics of the
His procedure was exactly as follows: a leisurely
rise from the car floor; a lumbering descent from
the car; the unhurried lifting of a leg in answer to a
call of nature; two vigorous thrusts at the ground
with his rear feet ; a shake of his body to rid himself,
apparently, of the slothfulness engendered by a long
motor ride. These things accomplished, he galloped,
in a stately fashion and in a straight line, some fifty
yards to the left of us and froze abruptly into a
All this being unnoticed by the real estater, he
continued to observe the flying pair with a gloating
eye and extol their virtues.
"Did you," he demanded, "ever see a pair of
young dogs cover their ground nicer than those two
"No," I said, "I never did."
"Did you ever see a faster, wider pair at any age ?
Now did you ?"
"They're fliers, all right."
134 SPORTING DAYS
"Isn't it a real pleasure to see dogs move like
"Yes," I said, "it is. But Henry" my compan-
ion's name was Henry "when you're tired of
watching them go, we might step over here to this
white dog and kill some birds."
"What's that?" said Henry. His absorbed gaze
tore itself from the distant pair and rested upon the
statuesque Decatur Jack, a stone's throw away.
"Well, I'll be a" But what Henry said he'd be
I shall not set down upon this fair white page.
That was my introduction to the second of the
two great Jacks that have been mine in one short
lifetime. On this first day of our association, four-
teen coveys were moved. Of these, two were found
by Henry's pair, and one was questionable, since all
three dogs were on point when we came upon them
in a thicket. Decatur Jack went to the eleven other
I say "went to," because that is literally what he
did. He did not hunt, as lesser quail dogs are forced
to do. By some God-given attribute of nose or bird
sense or judgment of the country he simply rnwM
with only slight variations from a straight line
one covey to the next. How he did it was beyoi
It was still beyond me after I had watched him
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 135
performance of these miracles, day after day, for
He never seemed to hurry at his work. When put
down, he did not rush away like a mad thing. He
was apt to perform the ritual, already noted, before
breaking into the tireless, long-striding gallop that
took him from covey straight to covey. And yet, in
the flat country of south Georgia, where wide fast
dogs abound, when he was put down with a speedster
for an hour's dash, one was surprised to notice that
he was abreast of his brace-mate if the other dog
elected to take JackVdirection toward the inevitable
Another of his accomplishments was the way he
accommodated himself to the type of country in
which he was put down. As a rule, the class dog of
the open spaces simply goes out of one's life when
hunted in hilly, wooded country. I have sat on a
horse and seen Decatur Jack become a dim white
speck on the far horizon in south Georgia. I have
seen him leave a great wide stretch of splendid quail
cover, where birds had heretofore always been
found, fight his way through an almost impenetrable
patch of briers, thirty yards deep, swim a river, bore
through a similar patch of briers on the other bank,
work to the top of a steep rise thinly covered with
136 SPORTING DAYS
pine-oak, find a covey and later other coveys that, for
some unknown reason, had taken to this sparse hill-
side. But always he contrived, from time to time, to
be in sight. That brain of his had easily discovered
the simple fact, hidden from so many shooting dogs,
that birds fall only when a man is there with a gun.
To this discovery of his I owe a triumphant vin-
dication. A certain editor of an outdoor magazine,
which shall be nameless, has put in many weary
hours listening to rapt enthusiasts burble of their
shooting dogs. The certain editor has, in conse-
quence, become skeptical, not to say hard-boiled, in
his attitude toward Shot or Dan or Fanny, whose
work he has never had the doubtful pleasure of
Having spent a season in the South shooting over
the wonder dog that a kind providence had placed in
my hands, I returned north for the summer. While
spending a day on a trout stream with the editor in
question I proceeded to grow lyrical over the big
white wizard and all his works. I was checked in the
middle of my panegyric by a look of pain on the edi-
torial countenance. Obviously, the man was suffering.
"AH right," I said. 'Til have him shipped to
Honga next fall, and prove it."
By "Honga" I meant the Honga River Gun Club,
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 137
on the eastern shore of Maryland, of which both the
editor and I are members. It is primarily a duck club,
but there are some two thousand acres of land on
which, during spells of bluebird weather, we do a
casual bit of quail shooting.
The following November saw me fulfill my prom-
ise. A day came when the editor and I met at Honga.
Decatur Jack was safely in the club kennels. The edi-
tor was gripped by such enthusiasm at the prospect
of shooting over the dog that he killed ducks until
lunch time and then took a nap until three o'clock in
I must confess to some misgiving as I let Jack out
of his runway and waved him toward a small open
field in the immediate foreground. Accustomed to the
limitless sweeps of south Georgia, what would he
do in this new cramping country where small fields
were crowded on all sides by pine woods and briery
thickets? Would he simply disappear from view to
strengthen the editor's suspicion that all men are
liars where their own bird dogs are concerned ?
What he did was to stay exactly within the con-
fines of this miniature course and go, in one hour and
forty minutes, almost as the crow flies, from one
covey of quail to the next, until he had found nine.
We lost sight of him only once. This was on the last
138 SPORTING DAYS
covey. We stumbled on him, holding these birds,
when it was too dark to shoot. I think I should add
that, over this same ground, the average bird dog
could be expected to find four or five coveys in a full
day's hunt. 1
It is worthy of note, I think, that from that day
on the certain editor is quite liable to cause signifi-
cant, not to say injured, looks to pass between other
members of the circle when it is his turn to hold
forth at a dog-fanning bee and he decides to recall
his short afternoon with Decatur Jack. 2
Came the depression. I suddenly found myself
unable to roam the country at will, nor could I longer
maintain a kennel of quail dogs for south Georgia
shooting, when, so far as I could see, trips to south
Georgia were things of the past. I got rid of all but
one dog and crawled back to up-state New York,
taking a too-rusty pen and Decatur Jack with me*
But grouse season arrives, even for hard-driven
writers, and the grouse, I knew, were just outside
my study window. On an opening day the white
pointer and I set forth. What he would do with
grouse on rocky, brier-infested, laurel-ridden moun-
tainsides I had not the faintest idea.
1 Editor's Note : To the preceding paragraph, check and double-
check. Ray P. Holland.
2 Editorial confession : Too true ! R. P. H.
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 139
He lumbered off. Presently a grouse flushed fifty
feet ahead of him.
"You, Jack!" I called. "Whoahl Careful!"
He stopped and looked at me with no sign of
apology. He simply observed me with his character-
istic amused tolerance. I think he had acquired that
look early in life, when his first owner, whoever he
may have been, attempted to show him where to
find quail. The look in this instance seemed to say,
"My dear fellow, is that what you want to shoot at
animated hens? Well, really! Still, if that's your
idea, we might as well get at it."
He proceeded to go to grouse without the slight-
est hesitation, point them and, in many cases, hold
them until they got out almost under my feet when
I came up. If his work on quail had filled me with
awe, now I was completely bewildered. A slight,
ghost-like setter bitch that had been my most recent
grouse dog had crept soundlessly to her points and
had rarely succeeded in given me a decent shot. And
here was this great calf of a dog plunging off-
handedly through the cover and nailing ruffed grouse
with a lack of finesse that was almost brutal.
Later, as I thought it over, I felt that I had
solved the mystery. The fact that Jack the Second
did not make game or road or hesitate over locating
140 SPORTING DAYS
a bird did the trick. Going to a grouse with the same
bee-line directness that took him to a covey of quail,
he stopped and there was the crouching bird, too
befuddled to fly. The dog overcame cunning with
boldness. He didn't give those Catskill grouse time
At any rate, my second Jack afforded me some-
thing like the shooting I had enjoyed in thickets of
long ago with that other Jack of cherished memory,
and I had found a dog, after all, who could handle
that distrustful sophisticate in feathers the mod-
ern ruffed grouse.
A year sped by, as years do. Once more the long-
legged son of Georgia ventured north. Meeting him
in New York, I suggested that he come up to the
Catskills with me for a few days' shooting.
"At ruffled grouse?" he inquired.
"Yes," I said. "I want you to see the big white
dog handle them."
"You don't mean to say youVe got him doing it
He shook his head mournfully- "Well," he said,
"I always did think he had more sense than any
man I ever saw, but I reckon being around you
steady has kind of weakened his mind."
LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 141
"Come for a day at least," I urged.
"Can't," he said. "Lily Belle has been sort of
poorly here lately. I've been worried about her.
Gotta get back."
Expressing the hope that the wife of his bosom
would soon be enjoying her usual good health, I con-
tinued to urge him.
"I'd like to see the big dog again," he admitted
at last, "and find out what you've done to him. I'll
fool around with you for just one day. I can still take
it, I reckon."
At about 9:15 the following morning, Decatur
Jack banged into a point on a big cock grouse that
had ventured out among the blackberry briers in an
old apple orchard. The bird roared up and swung
back toward the hemlocks. My friend's gun spoke
and the grouse crumpled in mid-flight as though
every bone in his body had been broken, leaving a
cloud of feathers to float languidly down into the
tangle of briers. Jack, for some reason, brought the
bird to my friend. He took it from that great pink
mouth, smoothed its plumage, then put it into his
hunting coat without a word.
At approximately 9:45, Jack pointed again
among some beech trees on a mountainside. My
friend advanced toward the dog. From a welter of
142 SPORTING DAYS
lichen-covered rocks and clumps of laurel a grouse
shot almost straight up. It reached the higher
branches of the beech trees like a rocket and -was
leveling for a sail off among the tree-tops when it
folded in mid-air and fell like a plummet almost at
My friend broke his gun, slipped a shell into the
right barrel and picked up that very dead bird. Again
he smoothed bronzed feathers into place, gently and
in silence. Becoming aware that Decatur Jack was
observing him with a more than usual amount of
amusement, the son of Georgia spoke.
"The big so-an'-so thinks something is funny
around here," he said, "and he's looking right at
me." His eyes dropped to the dead bird he was still
absently stroking. They lifted to give me a some-
what embarrassed look. "Listen, is there a little
place, close about, I could rent for a month? I kind
of think some of this mountain air might do Lily
Belle a lot of good."
The Diver Takes to Pinochle
I WATCHED THE DIVER SPIN, TWIRL AND
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE
THERE are few certainties in the nebulous art of
angling. Any hour any day your fondest theory
may explode in your face. Having been assured by
long experience that the dry fly is of no avail in
early spring, there will come a day it may be snow-
ing gently at the time when you consign a floater
to the unbroken surface of a pool just to see it ride.
Instantly a trout rushes up from icy depths and takes
it. So, later, do many of his equally benighted
You go home with the left shoulder sagging pleas-
antly under the weight of a heavy creel, determined
to return and do likewise on the morrow. Alas, no
single trout deigns to notice a dry fly on the follow-
ing day, or on any other day that April. As a matter
of fact, eighteen or nineteen years may pass before
the patient casting of dry flies on various streams in
early spring puts anything to speak of in the frying
146 SPORTING DAYS
Now let us suppose you have been persuaded by
excellent authorities that it is not the color or type
of fly that matters; it is the method of presenting
it that is the controlling factor in bringing home the
bacon. Comes a morning when your few chosen pat-
terns, no matter how artfully offered, get you exactly
nothing. In desperation you dig out of the lunch
pocket of your fishing coat the old fly box a relic
of the days when you spent a greater part of your
time changing flies*
You open up this miniature steamer trunk and
gaze at its contents in dismay. What an appalling
collection of bedraggled relics 1 You select perversely
the worse-looking specimen of the lot a huge
bilious-looking bottle-washer and cast it listlessly
upon the water. You are startled into a premature
strike by seeing two brown trout heading earnestly
for this synthetic titbit from opposite directions.
A field day follows. All the yellow bottle-washers
in the old fly box are used up. That evening you tele-
graph for more. You await their arrival in a frenzy
of impatience. They come. You dash for the stream
with a full two dozen of the precious things and lay
one cunningly upon your favorite pool. Nothing
happens. Nothing continues to happen all that day
and the next and the next.
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 147
From then on, as the seasons pass, you give the
good old yellow bottle-washer a tryout now and then.
It is just ten years later when at last a nine-inch
brookie gathers it in. Looking at the fish after it is
netted, you discover that he is blind in one eye*
This sort of thing is pretty discouraging to those
of us who like to know at all times just where we
stand. It is all but disastrous to the reputation of
the expert. I know a man a scientific fellow who
has devoted a lifetime to an exhaustive study of all
varieties of trout from egg to creeL Less dis-
tinguished anglers now agree that no man who has
ever lived can hope to rival him in the number of
things he knows about fish and fishing that aren't so.
Despite the hopelessness of trying to determine
definitely when or why trout will or will not rise on
any given day, the years will indubitably bring to any
persistent angler certain precepts that he can safely
rely on. He will learn, for example, that any trout
which reaches the respectable length of fourteen
inches can, in the twinkling of an eye, add noticeably
to his dimensions. He does this by simply giving a
glimpse of himself as he rises to a fly which he does
not take* From that instant he becomes in the mind
of the beholder and in the recounting of the episode
afterwards "about sixteen inches/'
148 SPORTING DAYS
On the other hand, a similar fish can also shrink.
He need only take the fly and later be displayed to a
fellow angler as he stretches his now curiously un-
impressive length in the grassy depths of the creel.
An indifferent inspection will invariably be followed
by "close to thirteen."
These, as I have already suggested, are among
the certainties of angling. I shall now endeavor to
recall the time, the place and the manner of my
learning yet another of the few indisputable truths
that are within the knowledge of most experienced
In the late spring of a distant year fifteen springs
have passed since then The Pelican, or Great
Diver, had accompanied me, at my suggestion, to
the Ausable River. We proposed to devote a month
to the pursuit and capture of brown, rainbow and
native trout in that notably treacherous stream.
It was early in our association so early, in fact,
that I had not fished the Ausable heretofore and The
Diver had not yet acquired the proud title that has
ever since been his. I bestowed it on him at supper
one evening on our return from a particularly ap-
palling stretch of rocks and fast water. He had spent
the greater part of the day, so it seemed to me, be-
low the surface.
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 149
"Kid away, Oscar," he said, "but here's a thought:
I get wet and I get fish."
Since his creel that evening had been twice as
heavy as mine, I allowed the nice distribution of
some ketchup over a mound of baked beans to ab-
sorb my attention for a time. At last I rallied.
"Sooner or later you're going to break an arm or
a leg or your fool neck."
I spoke lightly, to be sure, but not without certain
inner trepidations. Any day, I felt, my prophecy
might be fulfilled. Even now I cannot understand
why, as the years have passed, The Diver continues
his headlong career, up and down a multitude of
rivers, still entirely regardless of where he sets his
feet and still singularly hale in wind and limb,
I went to bed that night, I remember, troubled
by the thought that I had introduced The Diver to
the most precarious wading I had ever encountered,
and shuddered as I recalled that the man had a wife
and children, I was in no wise relieved next morning
as I watched him spin, twirl and stagger downstream
in the wake of a good-sized rainbow that he had
succeeded in hooking- Unable to bear the spectacle
longer, I made my way to a pool farther up the river,
the bottom of which was not quite so diabolical as
the stretch which The Diver had elected to fish-
150 SPORTING DAYS
I caught nothing in the next few hours. My fail-
ure, I felt, was due to lack of concentration* How
could a man fish who wondered steadily between casts
whether or not his companion was by now a bruised
corpse lying somewhere in the turmoil of Ausable
I was doubly cheered, however, to find, when I
joined The Diver for lunch, that he was both alive
"Skunked," he informed me as he stood and
dripped. "Just one of those days."
"What became of the rainbow that had you in
tow when I left?" I asked.
"Tore out. Haven't had a rise since."
The rest of that day was also blank. So likewise
were several days that followed. We cast our arms
off without reward. The trout of the Ausable ap-
peared to have become definitely opposed to the idea
of sustenance. The mere thought of food seemed re-
pugnant to them.
We shook our heads despondently over the situa-
tion each evening and sweated and cast in vain each
day, but and this is one of the mysteries of the
anglers* world in our heart of hearts we were not
unduly depressed. Your ardent trouter needs only
water that he knows contains fish to remain reason-
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 1 5 1
ably contented. The practice of his art and an ever-
present hope will sustain his indescribable inner glow
for days on end.
My chief anxiety continued to be The Diver. His
efforts seemed to increase as the fishing got worse.
They became so- spectacular that tight-rope walking
on a high wire appeared eminently safe compared to
some of his pyrotechnics in midstream.
I suggested that we try the Beaverkill or the west
branch of the Delaware, but The Diver refused to
"When it's dead/' he informed me, "it's dead all
over. This is a sweet piece of water, Gus. Interesting.
Keeps a guy on his toes."
"You mean nose, don't you?"
"Just a kidder. Just a born kidder."
One morning as I climbed out of a pool I came
face to face with an acquaintance and fellow angler
whom I had failed to encounter that season on any
of his chosen rivers*
"Didn't see you on the Broadhead or the Esopus,"
"Nope," said he. "Been in Maine/' Whereupon
he proceeded to relate a tale involving a certain
northern lake and stream that held me spellbound.
"Never," he wound up, "have I dreamed of such
fishing. Never. It was simply unbelievable."
"Listen," I said. "I've got no right to ask you,
but I'm going to. Just where is it, and how do you
I was both pleased and dumbfounded at the
alacrity with which he confided to me the precious
knowledge I was seeking. Then a thought gave me
"Why did you leave it and come here?" I de-
He was wading into the pool I had just quitted,
stripping out line for his first cast.
"Too many fish," he said, and shot his fly expertly
out upon the surface.
Now this was an upright citizen of unquestioned
probity whose word was as good as his bond. Too
many fish ! I was deeply stirred. I had never been
where there were too many fish. I doubted the pos-
sibility of there being anywhere on the globe a body
of water containing, so far as I was concerned, too
many fish. Furthermore, here was a chance to dis-
tract The Diver from his present hazardous under-
takings and bear him off to less spectacular angling. I
dashed downstream, summoned him from the river,
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 15
and proceeded to set his soul aflame by repeatin
the pregnant phrase I had just heard.
"But listen, Hubert," said he, with a last shre
of caution, "maybe this guy's giving you the rur
"Not a chance. I've known him for years. Yo
can bank on anything he says."
"Too many fish, eh I How do we get there?"
"Drive five hundred miles and take a boat up th
Penobscot, then go in by buckboard. The boat run
once a week."
"Mere detail. If the boat isn't there, we'll swim.
Some few days later The Diver and I followed
buckboard and plodding team around the final ben
of a 2O-mile trail and came at last to the lake of ou
seeking. It lay like a great rose-colored mirror, b<
tween three purple mountains, in the last of tha
Having walked eighteen of the twenty miles
sooner than submit to the inevitable spinal fracture
that riding in that buckboard over that trail woul
have entailed, we now stood at gaze like weary pi"
grims whose eyes at last behold the towers of Mecca
Our host, who was driving the buckboard, brok
in upon our ecstatic contemplations, "Well, boys
there she is," he said. "Better get in and ride ncr
It ain't so bad from here to camp."
We climbed into the buckboard and clung to rf
seat and one another as the dauntless vehicle negot
ated the last mile of that unspeakable trail. Present!
we arrived at "Camp Killkare." A row of log cabir
with rustic porches along a shore of the lake.
We drove past according to birchbark signs
Wildwood Cabin, Sunrise Cabin, Lakeview Cabir
and so came at last to Moonbeam Cabin, where th<
tired team halted promptly at command.
"We're putting you boys here in Moonbeam/
our host informed us. "We eat in Waldorf the big
one in the middle. Supper'll be in thirty minutes,
You'll find soap and water and towels inside if you
want to kind of freshen up."
The Diver, unloading duffel and heaving it on to
the front porch, was keeping a dreamy eye on the
"Have we got time to wet a line before supper?"
"Sure, if you're a mind to.* 1
We dived simultaneously for rod cases*
"Where is the best place to fish around here?' 1 I
Our host indicated the entire shore line with a
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 155
"Just anywhere. You might keep a few if you're
trout hungry. The other boys don't fish so much here
The Diver's hurried efforts to assemble his rod
ceased abruptly. He became suddenly rigid, a rod
joint in either hand.
"Why not?" he inquired.
"Well, they've sort of took up pinochle."
"Pinochle!" The Diver spat out the word as
though ridding his mouth of something both poison-
ous and decayed.
"Yes, sir ; they tell me it's a real interestin* game.
Well, I gotta get the team put up. See you at
The buckboard with its patient roan and sorrel
bore him away.
We stood gazing at each other in sickening silence*
It was broken at last.
"So we come nine thousand miles because your
friend Baron Munchausen wanted the Ausable to
himself." The Diver laughed.
As though it were an echo of that despairing
laughter, a loon's hideous cackle came to us from
somewhere out on the lake*
The effect of my eighteen-mile walk hit me like
the kick of a mule- 1 became one big ache.
156 SPORTING DAYS
"Maybe they aren't fishermen," I falter
"Then why did they come here?"
I could think of no answer to that una
"Zeke," said The Diver, "we've been c^~.
Come on, I'll prove it."
He stalked grimly to the edge of the lake and
made a first cast, with two sizable wet flies, into that
sheet of painted fairy-like water. An instant boil dis-
turbed the brooding surface.
"Socko!" said The Diver. "Come to papal"
Shortly thereafter he carefully netted two native
trout that seemed to have been poured from the
same mold. They were beautiful, richly colored fish
about twelve inches long.
"This," said The Diver, "is the life. Take a shot
at it, George!"
I hastened to obey. A similar boiL A brief
struggle. I netted twin brothers. The Diver's pair
and mine were apparently quadruplets.
And now The Diver cast again,
He failed to use his net on this pair. They were
simply dragged out on the small flat beach from
which we were fishing. "I'm sending the Baron a
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE I $7
dozen flies for Christmas," he informed me. "Or
maybe he'd like a nice two-piece rod."
Then I cast*
"Don't keep those two," said The Diver as I
beached the resulting double. "We've got six al-
ready." His wrist flicked the flies settled on the
surface. Came the unescapable boil. But now the
exultant "Sockol" was not heard. It remained un-
uttered while twenty minutes passed and there was
no variety to our proceedings, or to the number and
size of the trout we took. "Socko!" was out.
At last The Diver desisted. He turned a troubled
eye my way.
"Let's move on away from here, Al. They're
So we moved fifty yards along the shore. I cast.
Two trout exactly like the ones we had taken further
down the lake I
The Diver cast. Ditto! He unhooked this last
pair and watched them shoot like twin torpedoes
into protecting greeny depths.
"Just two little Moonbeams entirely surrounded
by fish. What'll we do?"
"Maybe the stream's different," I suggested.
"That's a thought," The Diver brightened.
"We'll try her in the morning."
158 SPORTING DAYS
A tinny whanging now smote the air. It came, we
discovered, from the front porch of Waldorf, where
a stout woman was belaboring a dishpan with sig-
nificant gusto. We moved in silence toward the
Presently we encountered half a dozen card play-
ers, their head-gear decorated with a varied assort-
ment of flies, in a deer-antlered living room. They
looked up as we entered, mumbled greetings, and
joined us without enthusiasm at the supper table.
"We've been fishing the lake," said The Diver
as he placed a paper napkin across his knees. "It's
got us down. I don't see how a piece of water can
hold that many trout."
An erstwhile card player who had just forked a
piece of cold tongue from a platter held his trophy
poised in mid-air and sighed heavily.
"Until you fish the stream, brother, you ain't
seen nothinV The slab of tongue was slapped down
and inspected. "Somebody pass the mustard."
Despite this disheartening pronouncement, early
morning found The Diver and me heading for a
lumber dam at the foot of the lake over which
spilled the water that formed the stream. Working
our way out to the middle of the apron of the dam t
we observed the top pool of a merry little river that
THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 159
wound away from us through alders and white birch
and pine. The quiet pool at our feet, unbroken by
ephemeral tell-tale rings, showed not a sign of life.
"Nothing rising," said The Diver with strange
As he prepared to make his initial cast his fly
swung from his rod tip over the pool some six or
seven inches from the surface. The fly dangled there
for an instant. A trout hurled itself out of the water
at the fly. The fish fell back with a splash as another
hurtled into the air, and another, and then another.
In a moment there was a sort of perpetual fountain
of trout below that fly, none of which managed to
The Diver watched this extraordinary piscatorial
upheaval in silence. At last he spoke.
"Back to the Ausable for us. When does that
boat come up the Penobscot again?"
"Not until Wednesday-"
The Diver thought this over. "Ever play pinochle,
"Well, here's where you're going to learn."
Thus I discovered one of the few axioms of fly-
fishing. Life can be pleasant with the creel still
empty, but "too many fish" cannot be long endured,